NEW DELHI: After hotels and monuments, banquet halls will soon be opened at half capacity, Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel said on Thursday, assuring the hospitality industry of his support to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a webinar organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the minister said the tourism sector has faced severe challenges due to the pandemic.
However, this pandemic has also opened new opportunities for development and getting all stakeholders together to fight against this situation, Patel said.
"We have been able to give some help to the industry in the best way possible. We have been able to open all the monuments, hotels and soon we will be able to open the banquet halls in half capacity. We have been able to revive air travel to a certain extent and we will continue to increase it," he said.
"The tourism industry is a pivotal sector for the development of the economy. We have immense opportunities to increase wellness tourism in the country. We need to hand-hold and collaborate so that the tourism industry bounces back more smoothly," Patel said.
The PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry had also organised the 4th edition of the National Talent Competition in Tourism and Hospitality Sector with the theme "Re-packaging Tourism and Hospitality for 'New Normal'."
It was held from August 19-20 and 18 teams consisting of students from 12 tourism and hospitality management institutes took part in the competition and highlighted strategies towards the recovery of this sector while encouraging new business models, embracing digitalisation, and meeting the safety demands of guests.
Encouraging students, the minister said that this crisis will bring about a change for the better and young leaders will be making their careers in a much stronger, robust and an enterprising ecosystem.
Deliberating on the challenges being faced by the tourism sector due to the pandemic, Suman Billa, Director for Technical Cooperation and Silk Road Development, UNWTO, said that globally, there will be fewer travellers this year due to which there will be a reduction in tourism revenue.
"This will have an adverse effect on the job markets as well. We can estimate that it will take 2-3 years for the global economy to bounce back."
"The tourism sector needs to have strong and robust safety and hygiene protocols in place to ensure that tourists can travel with minimum risks. It's important to kill the anxiety in the mind of tourists and gain their confidence," Billa said.
He said that globally, there will be one billion less travellers this year and an estimated 100-120 million job losses in the sector.
Talking about the role of technology, Billa mentioned that "we need to assimilate technology in the hospitality sector" and at the same time, ensure that the hospitality experience is still in place.
For India, the tourism and hospitality sector will see three phases which are the survival phase; the revival phase and the thrive phase, he said.