By Binu Philip / Tourism & Marketing Consultant
The belated decision to open India’s skies is a much welcome step in the right direction. A much-needed relief. Travel Recovery is NOT just about travellers being able to stream in again; it’s also about travel businesses being able to operate seamlessly post-crisis in order to cater to travellers in the best and safest ways.
The recent Govt. of India Recovery Package announcements have sent the travel industry in India into a sense of deep shock. “Unbelievable”, most of them say; “sad and disappointing,” say others, as the Govt. seems to have completely looked away from an important sector like tourism.
This is the world’s largest industry, revenue earner, and employer. The many countless benefits (often undervalued and overlooked) to nations and its people, led the industry to believe that the govt. will announce some encouraging measures for an important sector of the economy that finds itself stalled.
As they say and is a fact, tourism is the first to get impacted and the last to recover in a crisis. To that extent, as with any other sector of the economy, tourism badly needed those gentle strokes of rejuvenation.
No doubt, travel will be back. More than when, the question is, how long will it take to get back to pre-COVID levels? The answer to that is not a very comfortable one.
In this context, it was expected that during the 5-day announcement, tourism-travel-hospitality would find a place. The absence of it has resulted in widespread anger and concern within the industry. People are reconciled to the ‘we have to work on our own… can’t expect anything from the govt’ sentiment.
A thought for this time would be: Without the government and the private sector at each end picking up the threads together, tourism will be ‘dead as a dodo’ – a phrase Navjot Siddhu popularised in the context of ‘dry and dead’ cricket pitches.
The days of governments running the tourism industry or even parts of it, is over. Governments admittedly (tho with notable exceptions) have much less capability to run businesses, maintain quality standards of facilities, and importantly, curate experiences that today’s travellers need. Here, the govt needs the private sector.
The private sector with great expertise in providing facilities and experiences that match today’s evolved tastes are on the other hand unable to provide important infrastructure facilities at destinations. Or promote destinations on a large scale.
An individual property may promote a destination big time, but cannot possibly build the basic facets that make the destination attractive and accessible and thus, complete. Here, the industry needs the govt very much.
If this holds true in good times, it is even more important during times like these. For tomorrow when the time arrives for the industry to be thrown open again, businesses must be able to move on the rails, with enough Capital, confidence, and ease in dealing with a stressful situation. In its absence, they will start to succumb (as some already have). And that will lead to:
Reduction in capacities
The potential loss of travellers to other destinations
Further slowing of businesses
A pr problem about a destination going through issues at multiple ends
So, the forceful point – as helpless as the government may seem to find itself, and as angry and disappointed the industry feels, the realisation that should sink in is: There can be no tourism without the govt and the private sector treading the slippery path of uncertainty together.
As much as the private sector has to realise the importance of being patient and stay positive, governments also need to acknowledge the contributions made by the industry that helps sustain the larger economy. And treat it much better.
There can be no tourism with just the govt. having a destination ‘all ready to receive travellers’. A vibrant private sector ready to receive travellers is a must.
Whatever the government’s priorities are, they cannot afford to look away from the travel industry. Whatever the disappointments are, the industry must not be tempted to look away from the government (it will certainly not). Both need each other for businesses, destinations, the multitude of employees, and for the revenue generated out of it.
Governments and the Private Sector cannot stand at their respective ends and hope for a #travelrecovery
The belated decision to open India’s skies is a much welcome step in the right direction. A much-needed relief.Travel Recovery, Together.