Story in numbers: Lockdown pushes tourism, hospitality to brink of collapse

The US and the UK together accounted for 24% of foreign tourist arrivals in February 2020
The 21-day first phase of the nationwide lockdown from March 25 suspended domestic flights, trains and inter-state buses, and instructed all Indians to stay home. The government had already restricted foreign arrivals earlier in March, first suspending tourist visas and visa-free travel for those holding Overseas Citizen of India cards, then prohibiting arrivals from Covid-19 hotspots, and finally cancelling all international flight landings from March 22 — about 700 a week.

The government called for the suspension of all hospitality services with exceptions only for those who were accommodating tourists and people stranded because of the lockdown, and those designated as quarantine facilities.

Thus, foreign tourist arrivals in India, which saw a 9% decline in February 2020 (1.02 million) over January (1.12 million), and a 7% fall from February 2019 (1.09 million), further plummeted in March 2020.

The US and the UK together accounted for 24% of foreign tourist arrivals in February 2020. These two are among the worst hit by Covid-19, reporting over 800,000 cases (as of April 19), according to the data from Johns Hopkins University.

Domestic tourist visits numbered 1.8 billion in 2018, a 12% increase from 2017, the tourism ministry’s 2019 report stated. With the lockdown, this, too, came to a standstill. The shutting down of the iconic Taj Mahal on March 17, which attracted over 7 million visitors — both domestic and foreign — in 2018-19, was an evocative symbol of the dramatically altered tourism picture.

The tourism sector was in trouble even before the rise of the pandemic, experiencing the impact of the global economic slowdown.  The revenue losses in the sector would run into multiple quarters, Pavethra Ponniah, vice president, ICRA, said. “Several hotels have already let go of all contractual labourers. While there are discussions on pay cuts, we are not hearing of permanent labourer cuts yet. A prolonged downcycle could, however, lead to those also being pruned.”




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