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For hospitality and tourism sector, 2021 is all about survival, recovery

With business coming almost to a standstill, the travel and tourism industry players want the government to provide targeted support to the sector till vaccine-based confidence comes, to help them meet their operating costs and retain jobs.

December 21, 2020 / 04:40 PM IST

As the uninvited guest coronavirus pandemic checked in, India's hospitality and tourism sector suffered three quarters of economic wipeout estimated to be up to Rs 15 lakh crore, and the industry is desperately looking forward to government support to survive and recover in 2021.

With business coming almost to a standstill, the travel and tourism industry players want the government to provide targeted support to the sector till vaccine-based confidence comes, to help them meet their operating costs and retain jobs.

Although the black swan event shook the very foundation of this vibrant and bustling sector, the players are putting up a brave front, optimistic to regain the "lost vibrancy in the latter half of 2021" and are banking on 'revenge travel' once the health crisis is controlled to help the sector recover.

"This was the worst three quarters ever for the tourism industry over a century and this is expected to play out till another two quarters till vaccine is deployed across all source and destination markets," Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) Chairman Nakul Anand told PTI.

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The apex sectoral body had in the beginning of the pandemic forecasted almost three quarters of economic wipeout impact on tourism at between Rs 10 lakh crore to Rs 15 lakh crore.

"On an accumulated basis this would have played out as has been evident in both Q1 and Q2 GDP data, showing tourism almost double dropped more than the economy," he added.

Further, Anand said that while there will be "some green shoots of recovery in tourism, it will be extremely narrow-based in some locations, across some long weekends in drive down, domestic locations".

The impact of COVID-19 has been such that all other segments of tourism -- inbound, outbound, corporate, MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), adventure and leisure -- will continue to underperform till the next two quarters.

"This will be evident across the tourism value chain -- travel agents, hotels, tour operators, restaurants, tourist transporters and most other tourism service providers," Anand added.

"FAITH has been urging the government that till vaccine-based confidence comes, a targeted tourism support fund be made available for tourism players to meet their operating costs and retain jobs," Anand said.

With the situation continuing to be dire, the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) reiterated the demand for support from the government to help the sector and bring back lakhs of lost jobs.

FHRAI Vice President Gurbaxish Singh Kohli said for the industry, 2021 will be all about survival and recovery and everything else will revolve around this.

"Hospitality and tourism are a very important component of the economy and we need to ensure it bounces back and thrives," he asserted.

Claiming that tourism and hospitality are the worst affected in 2020, which "has been a total write off for the industry", Kohli said, "we were the first to fall and the last to rise. Unfortunately, the government has not been as forthcoming (with support) as one would've hoped".

Urging the government to support the sector, Kohli said, "We need to ensure that lost jobs somehow get re-absorbed and in this, we will need the government's support. So, interacting frequently with the government and authorities is high on the agenda for us".

Expressing similar views, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) President Anurag Katriar said, "I would also like to request the government for liquidity and policy support as it will really help us bounce back quicker".

He said the unprecedented crisis shook the very foundation of "this vibrant and bustling sector in 2020".

However, Katriar said, "I am also certain that we will regain our lost vibrancy in the latter half of 2021. Once the vaccine de-escalates the fear of contracting COVID-19, people will surely step out with a vengeance and improved economy will trigger high consumption."

Sounding pragmatic, Katriar said that while inbound tourism volumes are expected to remain subdued but the sheer size of India's domestic market will help the sector bounce back in 2021.

MakeMyTrip Founder & Executive Chairman Deep Kalra said, "Travelling is innate to humans and having spent time indoors people are yearning to connect, explore and travel more than ever before. While COVID-19 had a crippling impact on the entire travel & tourism industry -- the promise of effective vaccine rollout is good news as the year comes to a close".

Further, he said, 'revenge travel is going to gain further momentum as we enter 2021".

"The massive pent-up demand is going to fuel that need to travel further with a lot of people yet to take their first flight or first real holiday," he noted.

Stating that there is an opportunity in every adversity, Kalra said, "We believe this crisis will help galvanise efforts to grow domestic tourism. With international travel remaining largely inaccessible to leisure travellers, domestic travel will continue to grow strong as more and more Indians look inwards to explore their own homeland."

To seize the day, the government as well as the industry will need to rise to the challenge of transforming top Indian destinations as world class tourist attractions, he added.

"This requires an integrated, inter-sectoral approach and investment from the government to build supporting infrastructure while the industry should focus on innovation, stellar service and customer experience that will propel domestic tourism in India like never before," Kalra said.

Stating that the impact of the pandemic on the sector was huge, OYO Hotels & Homes founder and Group CEO Ritesh Agarwal said that 2020 posed unique challenges for the world, as it severely impacted industries and businesses, especially the travel and hospitality space.

As the world slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, "We strongly believe that the use of data science, big data, and artificial intelligence will be crucial to the travel, tourism and hospitality sector," he added.

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