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Wednesday, 25 March, 2020, 11 : 30 AM [IST]

T&T industry stares at mammoth losses & unprecedented recovery as India wakes up to complete 21-day lockdown

With India witnessing a growing challenge of controlling the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised address yesterday evening to the nation announced a complete lockdown for three weeks. This was his second address in a week at a time when ban on international aviation had come into force and airlines were struggling to suspend domestic operations.

 “This is like a curfew, and far stricter than the ‘Janata Curfew’ (on March 22),” the PM said. “Seeing the present conditions, this lockdown will be for 21 days. This is to save India, save each citizen and save your family. Do not step outside your house. For 21 days, forget what is stepping outside. There is a Lakshman Rekha on your doorstep. Even one step outside your house will bring the coronavirus inside your house.”

The travel & tourism industry had hit a rough patch early on in 2019 with the sudden collapse of Jet Airways and Cox & Kings going bust. Towards the end of the year, the industry was staring at a global image deficit with the political unrest in the country, and stakeholders were hoping for a new beginning in 2020. But within the first month of the year with growing cases of coronavirus in China, the travel sentiment had already started taking a hit. However, nothing could prepare the industry for the days unfolding with unprecedented travel curbs and eventual complete shutdown of the service providers – airlines, hotels, restaurants, tourist monuments and attractions, and religious sites across the world. 

The coming three months are extremely crucial for the industry since it the time for the peak summer holidays, and this time around, domestic tourism which was always considered the backbone of the Indian travel & tourism industry, is staring at a complete wash out. Whether it is the big boys or the small and niche players, everyone is struggling with massive cancellations and maintaining workforce. For an industry like travel & tourism that is prone to high employee attrition, the job losses will deal a deadly blow, the recovery of which will take months or even years to be met. 

A host of industry associations and trade bodies have knocked the doors of the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister seeking immediate relief and year-long tax exemptions; however, currently no measure seems to be enough. The economic loss due to the Covid-19 is estimated to run into billions of dollars.

While leisure as well MICE travel will have to wait to bounce back to normalcy once the country opens up, players are staring at the uncertainty of picking up the broken pieces and to start afresh. Only time will tell where is the industry heading to.


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