COVID-19: No mention of tourism and hospitality industry at all

Updated: May 19, 2020, 11:51 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Hospitality and travel industry numb at being ignored in India's Rs 20-lakh crore economic relief package; shock and dismay all around

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli
Gurbaxish Singh Kohli

The tourism and hospitality industry that works on the 'service with a smile' adage, has its smile wiped off. One of the hardest-hit, the travel industry was looking forward to some relief measures in the Rs 20 lakh crore package announced by the Union government in separate tranches.

"Let alone our survival, there was no mention of us at all," said Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, president of Hotels and Restaurants Association of Western India (HRAWI). He said, "The industry is left high and dry. On the one hand, the government exhorts businessmen to save jobs, but it does not need rocket science to see that with no relief, establishments are going to shut, leading to job losses."

These industries, he said, "are still seen as elitist." Kohli said that misconceptions are one reason the industry has, of late, insisted that stakeholders are participants in discussions led by the government and policymakers. "There is a lack of transparency and one Mr X sitting in an air-conditioned cabin will be framing policy," Kohli added.

Kohli said that the government must realise that hospitality and tourism will also contribute in the "recovery of the Indian economy in a post-COVID scenario."

Domestic scene
Now is the time to focus on domestic tourism, Kohli insisted. "Statistics show that 22 million Indians travel abroad every year. We need to harness this potential for domestic travel. The competition should be between states, and for that, we have to make our domestic structure very robust. The revenue stays within India. We need a lifeline and helpline to do that. We are talking to the state government; we do not know when the Centre will wake up," he finished.

The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH) said there had been constant dialogue with all sections of the government over the past 10 weeks including the PMO, and all 28 chief ministers. The FAITH leaders said it is "numb" at not being addressed. We are "taken aback," said Aashish Gupta, consulting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), FAITH. "This sector has such a huge footprint that we cannot work on perceptions. Whether these industries are perceived as elitist is not the question. Look at the ground reality, and the key numbers. We contribute 10 per cent to the GDP annually, and huge employment," he said.

Indirect employment
Industry veteran Dilip Datwani said this was a people-oriented sector and hence generates a lot of indirect employment. "We had hoped for measures like the fund of the ESIC and Provident Fund to be used by the government to pay salaries of employees. Owners may be able to pay for a month at the most, but this is such an uncertain situation, for how long can they pay?" Datwani. "Just like a child goes to his parents, we pay taxes to the government, so we are going to look at them for survival and then, possibly, a slow revival."

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