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Vaccinating one-third of population only way to revive travel, tourism

Vaccinating one-third of population only way to revive travel, tourism
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Vaccinating one-third of population only way to revive travel, tourism

Highlights

It’s time to come out of Covid gloom and see that the wheels of economy start moving again. This does not mean that the pandemic is over... things can change quickly and there are too many examples across the globe including our own country where things have gone wrong.

It's time to come out of Covid gloom and see that the wheels of economy start moving again. This does not mean that the pandemic is over... things can change quickly and there are too many examples across the globe including our own country where things have gone wrong. We need to learn lessons and move ahead to put the economy back on track. All that is needed is to put politicking even about vaccines and vaccination programme on back burner and speed up the process of ensuring that at least one third of the people are vaccinated in next couple of months.

US for example which had seen worst situation last year has vaccinated over one third of its population against COVID-19 and has reached a stage where pretty much people can give up wearing a mask under the latest guidelines from Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Still large number of people there prefer to use masks because of the benefits are too great to give up.

This is the lesson we need to learn so that we can have a successful live-in relationship with Corona without giving up on other things till it becomes endemic. This will help in reviving the travel and tourism sector which has been facing a tough time for over one year. Industry sources say that mandatory RT PCR test which is in force in many states and cities had led to cancellation of travel plans of many and most of the future bookings for flights and hotels have been cancelled. The rollout of vaccine gave some confidence to the industry that the situation may improve.

Even prior to vaccination, the travel economy was picking up slowly. People were preferring destinations like northern and eastern states and Maladives. The passenger demand on non metro routes was picking up. But the second wave swept the country. Most of the states have imposed further lockdown and restrictions which has once again dampened the spirits of the traveller's.

If people follow COVID norms and go in for speedy vaccination, at least the domestic traffic can recover to pre COVID levels by the end of the year, industry experts say. As far as international traffic is concerned things will continue to witness a slump at least till early 2022.

This being the situation, it's time the Government of India pitches in and plays a crucial role to see that the domestic travel industry moves in the direction of revival. The GOI has of course announced Rs 15,000 crore refinance to encourage banks to lend to service sector and Rs 16,000 crore facility to MSMEs from SIDBI.

It said all contact services like hotels and restaurants; tourism-travel agents, tour operators and adventure heritage facilities, aviation ancillary services, bus operators, etc are eligible to utilise this facility. The industry, however, wants the government to reduce GST on room tariffs which are over Rs 1,000 at least for a short period and lowering GST of 18% on the commission earned by tour operators and travel agents for providing certain services. Among other suggestions made by the industry are exemption of tax collection at source made while making payment to various hotels and airlines.

Hoteliers will have to come up with attractive schemes and offers to pull guests and increase occupancy levels. Increased usage of technology and reduction in human interface to ensure safety is also needed. While GOI should take all necessary measures to revive the industry, it is also important that the tourism sector focuses more on promoting hygienic and responsible form of tourism. Safety, health, hygiene and value for money should be watchwords.

If these measures are taken, the pent-up urge to travel will make people move out and explore the country with confidence and at least domestic tourism can be on path of revival.

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