We should control job losses in the sector, says ATTOI President Vinod CS
India should introduce hygiene protocol to tackle epidemics
The impact created by the corona virus may last up to a year and the tourism sector may face the biggest financial crisis in its history as a result. In an elaborate interview, ATTOI President Vinod CS says this is the time to take initiative and control the situation to reduce the damage, even as he looks for support from the state and central governments. Excerpts:
Q: Corona virus has impacted Kerala’s tourism fortunes to a very large extent. Can we attach a value to the loss incurred to Kerala tourism due to the pandemic, both from the hospitality sector and tour operator stand point?
A: Corona Covid 19 is a global pandemic, and hence we are not exempted from the rest of the World. The actual impact to the Kerala tourism Industry estimation cannot be truly assessed at this stage. It’s huge and we are going to be set back by several years. The unemployment and financial crisis will be the worst in its history. So at the moment we don’t have to assess the loss but we are taking the initiative to control the situation.
Q: What kind of lasting impact can this have on the tourism sector? Where all do you think the sector has been hit the hardest?
A: Europe is one of the major international contributors of Kerala Tourism, especially Germany, UK Spain, Switzerland. All those countries are struggling. So the international tourism flow to Kerala and India will get largely affected. In my opinion the impact will last for another an year. The impact on tourism will not only hit the industry but also those indirectly connected like auto drivers, coconut sellers etc.
Q: The hospitality sector has seen plenty of booking cancellations in the past few weeks. What kind of impact has this created for hoteliers?
A: It’s also another area of concern. Not only hoteliers, tour operators and airline companies have been affected by cancellations. I don’t think the hoteliers have the money anymore to refund guests. May be some credit vouchers can be considered. That may bring back the confidence of the guests.
Q: The operators have been asked to restrict the movement of the tourist groups. Have you tried to assess the impact of the crisis on the tour operators?
A: I don’t think it will create any problem. In Kerala we were safeguarding them. The tourists will understand that, and look at the care we are offering the tourists. It’s very unique and it is happening only in Kerala.
Q: The airline sector has been very badly affected too. What measures can be taken to uplift the sector and ensure continuity of flights once the crisis blows over?
A: It’s another major issue and many airlines will become bankrupt.
Q: It’s now clear that the damages caused are widespread. How do you think we can tide over this crisis?
A: It’s simply unimaginable. The developed countries were so confident of handling it. See the reality is most of them failed. The situation in Italy is an example. The volume of infected persons are huge and many countries are unable to attend to all patients. Look at US and UK – their confidence levels are getting lower. In India we have been able to handle it till date. The next four weeks are crucial. Once the number of infected persons cross 1000, then it will be difficult to handle. And if the number crosses 5000, it will result in a major crisis.
Q: What steps can the state government and tourism authorities take to help the sector come back to its original self?
A: If we are able to keep the infection growth like this and get to tide over it soon, the future of tourism in Kerala will be bright. We may be able market this well too, and the world may take notes from us.
Q: Can the authorities provide special benefits to the sector for a short term?
A: The Central and State governments should offer great support to tourism stakeholders. We need financial support to pay salaries to people. UK and Germany have decided to pay a substantial percentage of the actual salary to the hospitality sector employees.
Q: What can the authorities do to ensure that there are not too many job losses in the tourism sector on account of this crisis?
A: At the moment we need the financial re-imbursement to meet the salaries. There are some discussions going on to reduce the number of employees. At this stage it will be really a crime if organisations take steps like that. Of course, the entrepreneurs are not able to raise funds. The only way forward for them is to receive support from the government.
Q: What have been some of the key lessons learnt from this episode? And how can we be better prepared in future?
A: If you are talking about Covid-19, I think one cannot do much to prepare in in advance. But as far as India is considered we should really bring a hygiene protocol. There are lot of things we have to improve in our day to day life. We must start a real concept on how to go further to fight against such epidemics. People, irrespective of their status in society, should learn to adopt a hygienic way of life. It should be part of our school curriculum.