The year 2020 has been designated as a Year of Tourism and Rural Development. As the tourism industry prepares itself for a reboot, in a post COVID environment, here is what some of the prominent industry leaders have to say on the occasion of World Tourism Day
“Given the current situation and with the easing of travel restrictions, it is essential to recognize the tremendous opportunity and renewed interest in Destination India with rural tourism at its heart.
“As India’s travellers especially the millennial segment seeks meaningful and richer experiences, rural tourism caters to the growing demand – away from the crowds with options such as living like a local in alternative accommodation such as village homestays/farm stays, exploring new cuisines; also to participate in authentic cultural tours, heritage walks, local art workshops, cultural events, interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds and more. Given the changing consumer behaviour in this new era of travel, we are also seeing a growing interest in off-roading trips, forest hikes, back-to-nature trips/wildlife safaris, etc. that serve as a further opportunity for rural tourism.
“This will also help put new destinations and villages on the tourist map and promote local culture, heritage, handicrafts, and arts. The Ministry of Tourism had earlier already identified Rural Circuit as one of the 15 thematic circuits for development under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme for Integrated Development of theme-based Tourist Circuits for the development of tourism infrastructure. We also truly appreciate recent initiatives undertaken by the Ministry such as the Dekho Apna Desh campaign which has helped promote domestic tourism – including the lesser-known destinations”.
“The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the worst phases for the travel industry globally. While things may seem to be returning to normal gradually since some domestic movement has started taking place, the ground reality is quite different and gloomy. Due to locked International borders, the Inbound & Outbound players are big losers and can only look at staying afloat by cutting heavily on infrastructural costs.
“The way forward could mean having the entire staff force going for work-from-home option, which is the new norm. The Domestic business to driveable destinations is seeing a surge in the weekends but this breed of travellers doesn’t really need a travel agent. Most of them are booking their stay on OTAs or taking up direct promotional offers by the hotels. Whether the role of a conventional travel agent will change or not is yet to be seen but it will definitely evolve drastically and require them to resort to practices that have not been implemented or heard before.
“Hopefully, the tourists in the post-COVID era will be responsible and focused on eco-friendly practices. With the need for social distancing and desire to visit wide open and uncongested places, RURAL TOURISM could be the answer to revive tourism in a changed scenario. On this WORLD TOURISM DAY, can we introspect how we can run our respective businesses better than before, keeping respect for Mother Nature in mind? Let us all take the pledge to follow ethical practices and say no to mass tourism, promote slow travel and create new products around Rural tourism, that involves locals and offers immersive experiences to visitors as they partake in daily rituals and lifestyle. A variant of Ecotourism, Rural tourism is authentic, pure, eco-friendly, and sustainable. To further promote the year of “Tourism and Rural Development” we must showcase our local festivals, homestays, folk music, traditional cuisine, art, architecture, and rich culture which will all culminate in bettering the villages’ economy and help in development.”
“It is the most unfortunate time for our industry and probably the first World Tourism Day that has fallen in such testing times.
“Tourism is at a standstill due to the pandemic but this surely doesn’t mean we do not think of it or we stop planning for its development, as tourism is the only activity that will help economies to revive fastest and sustainably.
“In the words of our Prime Minister, ‘Atmnirbharta’ can be best understood in the light of tourism that has helped economies world over to grow and communities to prosper on their own. People and places where tourism prospers have shown remarkable development and growth in a self-reliant manner. Supplementary income generation for communities, alternative employment opportunities, improvement in education, and living standards of its people, all have been documented to register a substantial growth with tourism flowing in. The development is somewhat equally proportional to the growth on tourism.
“COVID–Break if we may call it so, is an opportune time to refocus our strategies and re-plan our goals for sustainable tourism development.
“My message to the tourism industry on this World Tourism Day is, to be on its marks, get set and when the time comes once again, GO.”
“Today is the worst World Tourism Day which the whole world has ever witnessed. In India alone, there are over 3.5 crores jobs lost due to this Coronavirus pandemic if the virus plays out throughout the year.
“It implies almost ₹ 6 lakh crores of direct economic impact & on an indirect economic impact of almost ₹ 15 lakh Crores loss to the economy.
“What is the solution? – Kerala has given the lead by focusing on Rural Tourism. Places like Munnar, Bekal, and most of the destinations are small rural villages, which now because of government help, have become tourist destinations. They have focused on the natural beauty, the local religious and cultural importance and have involved the local villagers in each and every tourist activity.
“In this time of crisis, we would request all State Tourism Boards and the Central Government to give soft loans, not only to the Hotels, Tour Operators and Transporters, etc. but also the employees in the Tourism Industry at a rate of 3-4% with a one-year moratorium. The difference between the bank interests could be absorbed by the Tourism department funds.
“We all need to learn to live with this disease by taking all precautions and safety norms. We must start all our International and Domestic flights, our Trains, and all other commercial activities.
“If we don’t do that, more people will die of economic starvation than will die of Covid-19. I urge the Centre and the State Governments, to follow the example of Kerala, thereby saving millions of jobs and reviving the economy.”
“Tourism is an increasingly intensive commercially organised business activity that sets the very root of the global economy.
“If the global economy, has to revive and thrive, tourism has to be rapidly brought back into some shape and travel activated with the opening of global borders unconditionally. Of course, a lot of caution has to be exercised by both service providers and customers responsibly.”