While most shared memories of their trips on World Tourism Day (September 27), the people who are the backbone of the industry held a peaceful car rally in Delhi to #SaveTourism. The impact of COVID-19 has been felt deeply and most in this industry as travel is at a standstill. Around 300 tour operators and agents participated in this rally.
An industry veteran, Shiv Raj Singh began his career in tourism in 1989. Later in 1997, he founded Atithi Voyages with focus on cultural and adventure tourism. Singh participated in the rally to #SaveTourism and shares what the industry seeks from the government to stay alive till things turn around:
How did the idea of this rally come about?
Various bodies of the travel fraternity had approached the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, but to no avail. Since it was World Tourism Day, we decided to hold a peace drive across the tourist hotspots pan India.
How many people participated in this? Where did the rally begin and end?
Over 300 people participated. It began at Sanjay Van, Vasant Kunj, Delhi, and ended at the parking area at India Gate.
What was the response by the authorities to this?
We hope the social campaigns and the various media channels will help us get the attention we seek.
Considering COVID-19 is an airborne virus, do you feel having groups at tourist spots at this time is advisable?
All SOPs were taken into consideration while the peace drive was taken out. We did not get off at any tourist spots. We just drove around in our cars. There were not more than three people in a car.
What measures would you advise that tour agents and operators take to promote safe travel?
All government laid down SOPs are in place for hotels, tour operators and transporters already.
What is the support that the government can offer the industry at this time?
An immediate government intervention is required, else the industry will go into deep shock and won’t be revived at all.
- That we get our last two years Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) immediately
- Lay off taxation on transportation for 2 years
- No GST for 2 years
- Moratorium to be given to tour operators and travel agents for 2 years or soft loans without any interest (as there is no work, so we can’t pay back the loans), this will enable us to hold back our staff in place and not go for retrenchment.
Many countries have banned tourists from high-infection rate countries, which India is. So what are your thoughts on this?
That’s understandable given our high Covid numbers. We don’t expect travel to begin before February-March 2021, earliest, which is almost the end of our tourist season.
What is really the long-term solution to ensure that no one feels unsafe when in a public place or sightseeing with a group?
Vaccine is the only solution as far as international tourist arrival goes. As for the domestic tourists, they need to follow full travel protocols of safe distancing, sanitisation and wearing a mask at all times.
What would be your advice to international tourists who aspire to see India?
They are all waiting for the international borders to open and are raring to come back and visit. But it’s clear that the vaccine is the only solution, till then no international travel will take place. However, we need the government to support the industry till this happens.
What is your personal advice to people who are exhausted with sitting at home and would actually like to take a vacation?
If you wish to travel today, go to isolated small places, boutique set-ups–this is the future. Travel in the times to come shall be to these places and not the usual tourist cities and destinations.
About World Tourism Day (source: Wikipedia)
Since 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has celebrated World Tourism Day as international observances on September 27. This date was chosen as on that day in 1970, the Statutes of the UNWTO were adopted. The adoption of these Statutes is considered a milestone in global tourism. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide. The colour of World Tourism Day is blue.