Covid deals big blow to tourism industry in Andhra Pradesh
In the last 17 months, the industry lost Rs 25 crore per month with a total loss of Rs 425 crore in the state.
VISAKHAPATNAM: The two waves of Covid-19 has severely affected the travel and tourism industry, the largest revenue and employment generator, which contributes to 10 per cent of GDP. As many as 6,000 employees are facing a bleak future now with 50 per cent of travel agents winding up their business and 90 per cent of the remaining facing closure by the year end due to unprecedented meltdown in the industry, which witnessed 83 per cent negative growth.
In the last 17 months, the industry lost Rs 25 crore per month with a total loss of Rs 425 crore in the State. At least 25 per cent of agents were directly affected as they might have either fallen sick or died due to Covid, according to Tours and Travel Association of Andhra (TTAA) president Vijaya Mohan.
Speaking to TNIE, he said the industry, which was gasping for breath and hoped for a recovery in early 2021 after there was some respite since October last. However, the hopes were dashed as the virus which was more virulent now, brought the industry to a halt.
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“Travel agents sell holiday tour packages for inbound, outbound, domestic and adventure tour operators. We have had no business for almost 17 months. Most of us have no money even to pay salaries to our staff,” Vijaya Mohan said. There are 1,000 travel agents in the State and 500 of them are registered with TTAA. Travel agents are in a very pathetic situation. Even after the situation comes to normal, the recovery will take at least two years, he said.
However, according to a study by McKinsey, what the industry now needs is a better and stronger stimulus package to regain the lost hold and sustain. He said data of second Covid wave suggests that the present plight of the industry is far more severe with almost irreversible damage when compared to the first wave. “Travel agents’ capital has been wiped out. Income and wealth has been eroded. Agents are closing down their business and have sacked their employees. The morale of the travel agents has been at the lowest ebb,” said Dheeraj, vice-president of TTAA.
He said though the rest of India actually shut down in March last, business for travel agents shut in January itself as the news of the virus started picking up from December 2019. He said they were hopeful of a good season after the situation started improving in January this year. However, the situation is back to square one after the resurgence of the virus and it is only the travel industry which is still shut down.
Travel agent Prakash said, “We have hardly received any help and have been left alone during the time of need. It is high time the government comes to rescue of travel agents.”
TTAA had written a letter to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy seeking his intervention to help the sinking industry stay afloat. The government issued a GO on December 28 last to extend working capital loans through banks and provide interest subsidies. But most of the banks are reluctant to give loans towards working capital to agents, he said.He urged the Chief Minister to bail out the travel agents with a grant of up to `5 lakh to each travel company and facilitate a loan up to `20 lakh from the State Financial Corporation. Among other things, the TTAA sought include power bill waiver, exemption on renewal of trade licence fee, advertisement tax exemption, and exemption of interstate road taxes and intra-city tax exemption for tourist buses.