BENGALURU: At least three lakh people, who directly and indirectly depend on the tourism sector for their livelihood, could lose their jobs due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The situation is so bad that the State Government is now stressing on survival of the sector rather than thinking about its revival, Tourism Minister C T Ravi told The New Indian Express. Experts and stakeholders too feel that it may take at least six months, or even more, to get back to normal.
On Friday, CM B S Yediyurappa held a review meeting with the Tourism Department officials where he was told that the sector has faced losses of Rs 15,000 crore in the last three months and about three lakh people are in fear of losing jobs. The Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation and the state-run Jungle Lodges and Resorts have suffered Rs 14 crore and Rs 15 crore losses, respectively in the last three months.
According to department officials, the sector contributed 15 per cent to the state’s GDP in the 2019-20 fiscal. Minister Ravi told TNIE that there are at least 35 lakh people directly and indirectly employed in the tourism sector including in hotels, transport and other ventures. “With no business, employers are forced to lay off their staff,’’ Ravi said.The government is now looking at how these business can survive for longer.
People being encouraged to visit local destinations: Minister
“Even if we offer large discounts on bookings for hotels or entry fee at tourist places to attract visitors, revival will not happen immediately. People do not want to step out and travelling will be their last priority. It could be months before normalcy returns. Till then, we need to look at the survival of businesses. We have to start somewhere. To begin with, we are telling people to visit local tourist spots. We cannot expect international or out-of-state tourists for now,’’ he said. Tourism hubs like Mysuru, Hampi, Karwar, and Chikkamagaluru which usually see hordes of visitors in the summer months, have seen none in the last three months.
Since last week, when the government relaxed lockdown norms and allowed tourist spots to reopen, very few tourists have visited these places. Ashok S J, former secretary of the Karnataka State Guides’ Association, said there are only 800 licenced tourist guides across the state. “They depend on tourists for their earnings and since there are no visitors, they do not have any work. We have conveyed this to the authorities concerned, but nothing happened. Unlike farming and other sectors, tourism has been ignored,’’ he added. Former Tourism Minister Priyank Kharge said the number of people who may lose their jobs is much more than what government is estimating.
“It’s a chain reaction. The government is stressing on local tourism, but who wants to see tourist spots which are in places where they reside? It is the time for the government to instill confidence among tourists for which they need to stress on measures taken and ensure that all standing operating procedures are followed. They should come up with packages to take tourists to different places outside their place of residence by providing safety measures. The government should restrategise”, he suggested.