Peak holiday season gone bust thanks to COVID-19, tourism industry struggles

The forced break on account of the COVID-19 pandemic has been anything but a holiday for those who would have otherwise been ticking off another place from their bucket list. Some people been reminiscing of past holidays on social media. But for the tourism industry, the outbreak has dealt a blow that many say is a never-before phenomenon.

The traditional summer vacation — the longest holiday period for many because of the academic calendar in India — has been thrown out of gear and the industry is at a loss over how to mitigate the crisis.

The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH), which consists of national associations representing the tourism, travel and hospitality industries in the country, has said that the inter-State domestic season, almost 60% of which happens in the April to July period, has collapsed.

In addition, India’s top-performing foreign source markets for tourism — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Japan, Singapore, Russia, Italy, and Spain — have been severely impacted by COVID-19 and people from there are unlikely to travel before the next financial year. With reduced connectivity and stringent travel restrictions likely for the rest of year, things are unlikely to pick up, the federation says. It has appealed to Chief Ministers to come up with State-specific packages, apart from waivers in utility charges, GST and other cess.

A JLL India report pointed out that as on April 10, over 60% of branded hotels across various segments were shut. It stated that many hotels across India were functioning on gross operating losses. It also mentioned that sales and marketing strategies needed to be programmed around the domestic traveller, with special focus on guest health and safety parameters, and that food and beverage should be realigned. It also said that discounting room rates would draw out the recovery period further.

However, not left with too many options now, the likes of MakeMyTrip have started offering plans to travellers to pay now and visit later. They are enabling people to purchase discounted hotel vouchers now that can be redeemed till November 30.

But Sanjar Imam, president, Karnataka Tourism Forum, said the sector was the first to shut down and would be the last to be revived. “Though some will be able to sustain for a few more months if the government brings in some relief, beyond May it will become a question of survival for the smaller ones with one to three people running the operations,” he said. With HR accounting for almost 70% of the business investment, many have cut staff salaries.

Matter of safety

Another question is how many people will be willing to travel once the lockdown ends. “People will not make investments now, no matter how lucrative. The thing with a pandemic is that nobody has the answers right now, not until a vaccine is found. But not everyone is going to stay locked down till next year either. Some people who are frustrated will want to travel,” he said.

The sector expects major shifts when this happens, including a preference for domestic and short-distance travel. In addition, the industry is expecting ventures to market themselves as being “COVID-19 safe”, providing atmosphere for social distancing and high priority to hygiene.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 1:12:08 PM |

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