Coronavirus: Tourism industry set to suffer a loss of over Rs15k crore
India is staring at a potential loss of over Rs 15,000 crore to the tourism industry because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has led to global travel restrictions and forced foreign vacationers to cancel airline reservations and hotel bookings, according to early estimates.
As the health crisis is expected to linger, the final numbers could far exceed the amount. To counter the setback, the Centre is working on a revival plan for the tourism industry.
On Tuesday, the culture ministry shut down all centrally protected monuments to the public until March 31 in its latest measure to stanch the coronavirus.
The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), an apex tourism industry association, has estimated that the losses amount to Rs 15,000 crore in foreign exchange and many job losses because of a slump in tourist arrivals in March and April.
“With the ongoing global crisis of coronavirus, the tourism industry is badly affected. As per the preliminary reports coming in from our members, we have lost about 15 lakh foreign tourists in the month of March and April…,” read the letter written by the IATO to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 16.
As per tourism ministry data, the foreign exchange for March in 2017 was Rs 14,667 crore, for 2018 was Rs 17,222 crore and Rs 16,125 crore for 2019. April forex figures for the years 2017 were Rs 14,260 crore, Rs 15,620 crore for 2018 and 17,061.
IATO president Pronob Sarkar said that the IATO’s estimate of loss does not account for the domestic trade, which has seen a huge slump across key tourism states. “Domestically, the loss is higher, and in the next two months, without a compensation and relief package in place, there could be losses running in lakhs. Our speculation is that without revenue, several big companies will cut down on staff,” said Sarkar.
Annually, India clocks in over 1.5 billion tourist visits. Tourism ministry data says that in 2016 there were 1.61 billion tourist visits, 1.67 billion in 2017, and 1.85 billion in 2019. On Monday, Sikkim became the third state after Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland to shut down outside visitors to contain the spread.
Tejbir Singh of the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India said that while adventure sports could have seen a positive upswing in these times, the travel to these areas will pose a risk. “The industry has seen many losses in the last few years, first owing to demonetization, then due to GST and now due to the pandemic. The government should step in, the idea that travel is a luxury segment should be done away with,” said Singh.
Subhash Goyal, chairman of ASSOCHAM’s Tourism and Hospitality Council said the IATO’s estimates are quite conservative. “If we take into account the air travel, hotel, and inbound-outbound numbers then the figures will rise to Rs 70,000-80,000 crores. Companies are firing staff, and while other countries have offered bailout packages, we are having to ask our government for one,” said Goyal.
Industry bodies are now going to approach the prime minister for help, he said.