DEHRADUN: The coronavirus battered tourism industry of Uttarakhand is pinning its hope on a relief package for hoteliers, owners of roadside eateries, tour and travel operators and people connected with adventure tourism who are facing a livelihood crisis.
It is estimated that the tourism industry of the state has suffered losses worth Rs 1600 crore in 2020 due to the pandemic. "We have submitted a proposal to the chief minister seeking a relief package to inject life into our embattled tourism industry," Tourism and Culture Minister Satpal Maharaj said on Friday
"Tourism is our bread and butter and it has suffered at multiple levels due to the pandemic. A relief package at this stage will do a world of good to people in the sector," Maharaj told PTI in an interview. Citing the findings of a study conducted by IIM, Kashipur, the minister said Covid caused losses worth Rs 1600 crore to the tourism industry of Uttarakhand in 2020 besides rendering around 23000 people jobless.
He said that the losses caused by the second wave of corona this year have not been estimated yet.
The relief package has been sought for hoteliers, owners of roadside eateries, tour and travel operators and people connected with adventure tourism like rafting and trekking who are facing a livelihood crisis with no tourists arriving due to the pandemic.
"While Kumbh had to be scaled down for people's safety due to a raging second wave, the Chardham yatra has been hit hard by the COVID induced restrictions for the second consecutive year. It has been a big blow to the tourism industry," the minister said.
Hotels in tourist hubs like Nainital and Mussoorie have suffered bulk cancellation of bookings in recent months due to the second wave of the pandemic which had shown signs of abating in February-March. Tour and travel operators have also suffered with no tourists around.
Covid curfew has been in force in Uttarakhand for several weeks now and vehicle operators are almost off the roads, he said.
"A relief package for the tourism industry at this hour will give it the much needed shot in the arm," Maharaj said adding that the chief minister has also been asked to include folk artistes as beneficiaries of the relief package as they do not get a chance to perform and earn with no cultural programmes being held by the tourism and culture department for more than a year.
Maharaj said he has also requested the chief minister to go for a phased opening of the Chardham Yatra after the Covid curfew is lifted in the state. Although the famous Himalayan temples of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are open for daily prayers, they have been kept out of bounds for pilgrims in view of COVID.
Pilgrimage to the Himalayan temples faced similar hurdles last year and opened finally with mandatory restrictions like a negative RT-PCR test report which limited the footfall of devotees to around 3.5 lakh only during the entire yatra season.
However, the minister said the tourism scenario though bleak should not lead to despair. "COVID is a global crisis. Many tourist hubs in the world have battled it and overcome the challenges. We should draw inspiration from them and look forward with hope," he said citing the instance of Dubai where the tourism industry is already showing signs of recovery.