For Tourism in India and for all its stakeholders, COVID-19 has played havoc and placed all in a state of quandary, where one doesn’t know where he is headed. On one hand, there are gloomy signs of no recovery at all, while on the other a hope floats in the middle of all this mayhem. The optimists are seeing an opportunity to be more creative than ever before in order to stay afloat. The big companies may scale down their businesses drastically by going in for measures that will reduce the infrastructural and operational cost, which may mean up to 80% of the staff working from home forever. In India, the industry relied heavily on the government for a bailout package that would give it an impetus and oxygen to stay around for some more time. However, much to everyone’s dismay, only a blind eye was turned to all the pleas, requests, and appeals.
Many tourism bodies and associations had their fingers crossed for five days when our Finance Minister announced a relief package for many businesses, but travel & hospitality. Everyone waited anxiously for the announcement day after day but five days went by without any inclination of any dole or a mere mention of what lies ahead for us. Not realizing the importance of Tourism in the Indian economy, the government cleverly brushed aside all the demands as if our industry never existed. With 20 million jobs in Travel at stake and with companies on the verge of bankruptcy, a stimulus package would have meant a good breather to all. With no clear path ahead for tour operators and travel agents, employers & employees hang further in oblivion. 20 lakh Crore package had no provision for Tourism and it has taken everyone by surprise. Tourism in every country on the globe thrives on the public and private partnerships, which has been a successful Mantra all this while. Unfortunately for us in India however, the government withdrew its hand and interest just when it was needed the most. The question that baffles all now is if this is the only way ahead. Tour operators are debating if they really need the government’s support at all in the post-COVID-19 world.
Tourism Boards play a major role in creating awareness of the destination and tour operators capitalize on the demand that is created. However in the last few years, private players played a dual-role in the absence of any aggressive Incredible India campaign. India tourism offices overseas had become dormant due to lack of funds and industry had been advocating the hiring of an effective International Ad-agency to continue the branding exercise for a decade or so. Major DMCs had moved out of India stand in International Travel Marts and preferred to book their own space for wooing the B2B customer. Many would even shy away from participating in Roadshows conducted by the tourism ministry as they felt that personalized targeted sales calls had a better effect. With very little dependence on the ministry and their ever-shrinking role & engagement, do we really need to join hands? Small DMCs may continue to bank on them due to the advantage of shared costs, but will they continue to do so after being let down this time around?
While there is no black & white answer whether private players still need handholding by the Govt. in promoting India in the International market since the latter’s role has reduced considerably now, industry experts do feel that one can do without them.