Synopsis–As per the Ministry of Tourism, the number of foreign tourist arrivals shrank to 0.21 million in the April-December period of 2020, compared with 7.75 million a year earlier.
Foreign tourists won’t return to India in a hurry after the country’s reputation as a safe tourist destination has taken a severe beating overseas due to the record-high Covid-19 caseload, surging death toll and criticism over the government’s handling of the second wave of the pandemic.
Amid the unfolding crisis, global media outlets have painted a grim picture of people dying while waiting for hospital beds, a crippling oxygen shortage, a health system on its knees and heart rending stories of mass cremations in India.
Industry experts say travel and hospitality companies that largely cater to international tourists were already struggling with yet another failed winter season, but the negative publicity that India is drawing across the world currently will continue to hit them hard for next two-three years.
“India’s image as a leisure destination has surely been impacted; just look at the sheer number of Covid cases and fatalities. I don’t see leisure travel taking off well into next year. It’s not happening in a hurry,” said Ajay Bakaya, managing director, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts.
India reported 6.6 million coronavirus cases last month. As per the Ministry of Tourism, the number of foreign tourist arrivals shrank to 0.21 million in the April-December period of 2020, compared with 7.75 million a year earlier. And due to heavy drop in tourist arrival, thousands of small businesses that cater to international tourists have shut shop or are struggling to survive.
“The impact has been devastating for small tourist agencies, tour guides, taxi drivers and hawkers operating in major tourist place like Delhi, Kerala, Goa, Kashmir and Jaipur. The whole ecosystem which caters to the international travellers is facing continuity issues,” Stic Travel & Air Charter Group chairman Subhash Goyal said.
Tour agencies operating in places like Jaipur and Agra, which receive high international tourist traffic, say they foresee a tough two-three-year period ahead. “The arrival is zero. We shut shop after paying employees for a year. I don’t see foreign travellers coming back to India in the next two-three years. My guess is that we will see some interest in October 2022. Till then, we have no option to be in wait and watch mode. Only time will tell whether our closure is permanent or temporary,” said Sanjeev Minglani, proprietor of Indo Vacations (Jaipur) that specialises in handling European clients.
Tourism continues to play an important role as a foreign exchange earner for the country.
In 2018, earnings from tourism were $28.59 billion.
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