Parliament monsoon session: Tourism ‘severely impacted’ by Covid-19, says Prahlad Patel
There has been no arrival of foreign tourists to the country as international flights have been non-operational since March 22Updated: Sep 14, 2020 17:39 IST
Minister for Culture and Tourism Prahlad Patel said in the Lok Sabha on Monday – the first day of the 18-day uninterrupted monsoon session of Parliament -- that the tourism sector has been “severely impacted” because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The minister was responding to an unstarred question in the Lower House of Parliament.
In a written reply, Patel said: “no formal study has been instituted for assessment of the impact on the tourism sector and job losses.”
He added: “However, several rounds of discussions and brainstorming sessions with industry stakeholders indicate massive loss of revenue and jobs. In view of the highly unorganised nature of the tourism sector, the impact in numerical terms can only be ascertained in due course.”
According to another written reply submitted by the minister, the contribution of tourism in the gross domestic product (GDP) and jobs in 2018-19 was 5% and 12.95%, respectively.
Patel reached out to international tourists through his response. ‘The ministry of tourism through the India Tourism Offices overseas proposes to undertake various promotional activities which include participation in travel fairs and exhibitions; advertising in the local print, electronic, outdoor and digital media; organising webinars to highlight success stories about Covid-19 in India to build confidence among foreign tour operators and travellers.”
There has been no arrival of foreign tourists to the country as international flights have been non-operational since March 22.
Earlier, officials had told HT that the focus would increasingly be to boost domestic tourism, as the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to continue to deter people from travelling long distances.
The ministry has also undertaken Dekho Apna Desh webinars, aerial photography of key cities and cultural assets in Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Udupi, Aurangabad and iconic tourist sites across the country during the 68-day nation-wide lockdown restrictions that were enforced from March 25 in a bid to contain the spread of the viral outbreak.
Patel said the ministry has launched SAATHI (System for Assessment, Awareness & Training for Hospitality Industry) for effective implementation of guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued in reference to Covid-19 and beyond for safe operations of hotels, restaurants, bed and breakfast (B&B) and other hospitality units.
Patel said the ministry does not have “any regulatory authority to seek refunds of advance amount paid”.
He added: “However, industry stakeholders have been requested to consider such issues and requests sympathetically.”
The minister also cited the key steps taken by various ministries of the government to help the tourism sector recover.
“Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has extended moratorium on term loans until August 31,” said Patel. “The government has further announced Atmanirbhar Bharat package through which a Rs 3 lakh crore collateral free automatic loan has been made available for MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises). The loan will have four-year tenure and a 12-month moratorium,” he added.
Patel also said that a 16-member committee has been set up to look into Indian culture, spanning as far back as 12,000 years ago.
The panel includes experts from a range of fields, including Archaeological Survey of India, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Vivekananda Foundation, Geographical Survey of India and Delhi University’s department of English, as well a representative from the ministry of culture.
“An expert committee has been set up for conducting holistic study of origin and evolution of Indian culture since 12,000 years before present and its interface with other cultures of the world,” Patel said.