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#Together in Travel

Images of the second wave are still fresh in minds of everyone. However, there is a cautious optimism in the air even though the media has been expressing fears of a supposed third wave. The travel & tourism sector globally, just on the heels of three large conferences – WTTC, FITUR and ATM has never been more optimistic. Held under trying circumstances in a tough environment, the tourism industry’s resilience amidst the global crisis was reinforced. The sentiments expressed and deliberations undertaken were positive to reinforce the belief that “We shall overcome”!! It’s time to ponder whether we can adopt measures and ideas that have worked well in other countries? Shared experiences, work collectively? Can we plan a “Reopening” ?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged governments to make data-driven decisions to manage the risks of COVID-19 when reopening borders to international travel. Strategies without quarantine measures can enable international travel to restart with a low risk of introduction of COVID-19 to the travel destination.*

We now have more than a year of global data that can help governments make more targeted decisions on international travel. This can keep the risk of importing COVID-19 cases low—including variants of concern—while restarting international travel with minimal infringement on the ability to live normal work and social lives. Importantly, lives that include travel.**

Yes, we were all thrown into the pandemic, a crisis the likes of it never before seen and experienced. There are learnings for all as well as takeaways. Given the size of India’s population, in general attitude of people – All is well , jugaad, lack of discipline has cost us dearly. Lessons have been learnt so we are better prepared in the future. The private sector- big and small companies have made a huge contribution to tide over the second wave. Can we work towards a planned restart or is it Utopia? Take a cautious approach and work to make it happen. We cannot repeat the Goa situation wherein there was a spike in Covid cases due to uncontrolled tourism. Formation of a taskforce for travel, tourism, hospitality sector with adequate representation from all stakeholders – industry, tourism, aviation, airlines, hospitality, health, state, central government bodies-Ministries of Tourism, Finance, DGCA, along with Google, and integrating of technology to work with international bodies. There is urgent need to collaborate as we require clear policies. Travel certification, approval of Covaxin vaccine, a safety stamp will go a long way in bringing confidence to travellers.

With all the negative media publicity, inbound tourism has taken a beating. Domestic travellers need reassurances before they travel. We need consistency, uniformity across the sector so people can plan and book. Prepare and enforce health protocols, allow mobility of travellers with a dual approach – Vaccination certificate (Aadhar identification) or negative test reports within 72hrs. Stringent penalties should be imposed for non – compliance of protocols. Technology is an enabler and entrance tickets, booking tour guides should be online. Daily visitors can be monitored, controlled and contact tracking will also be facilitated. The visitor experience will also be better with lesser people around. Restaurants and hotels have already made experience contactless.

Restart to save livelihoods of travel & tourism and hospitality sector – Professionals are living off diminished savings with lost livelihoods with no relief, or financial aid or package in sight. Being largely a fragmented sector we are the worst hit. Crowd funding for travel fraternity for Covid victims have been initiated by friends and co-workers. Rs One crore was collected in less than a week in true human spirit as contributions to save a life of a person. At local levels, trade bodies are reaching out to those distressed in the fraternity. It’s been a traumatic, emotionally draining experience for most.

The next six months are very critical. There’s no end in sight with respect to Covid though vaccination will be stepped up. We must work together to restart while managing risks. Closer coordination with all stakeholders is need of the hour. We are all in this together and will come out stronger.

Source -* *IATA

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