Hope to bounce back in six months, says ATE Group CMD Najeeb

EM Najeeb

Kerala’s tourism sector is currently assessing the kind of loss incurred due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation has become worse than initially expected, but the resilient tourism sector in Kerala has bounced back in the past against such difficulties.

In an interview EM Najeeb, chairman and managing director of Airtravel Enterprises Group of Companies tells us how the state can recover over the next six months. Excerpts:

Q: Can you brief us about the kind of losses that the tourism sector is facing due to the outbreak of the corona virus?

A: The corona virus has impacted Kerala tourism to a large extent. It’s a heavy loss. Due to the pandemic, we have seen almost 80% cancellations. As far as Kerala is concerned the impact may last up to six months. We expect revenue loss of up to Rs 20,000 crore.

Q: To what extent do you think the crisis will hit employment in the sector?

A: The business will get hit both directly and indirectly and there could be large scale unemployment. People may have to get used to a new way of life, that is different from the past.

Q: In what way can the business be rebuilt?

A: The financial losses will pinch us for sure. The economic situation is bound to get bad. However, we can check the contagion by taking all possible precautions and look to rebuild in the next six months. I am hoping that we will be able to bring the situation back to a normal state in that period.

Q: How do you think the government can help us?

A: This is the right time for the government to step in very earnestly and help all our fellow citizens. Their food, educational expenses, power ,water charges, medical expenses, clothes, shelter and all basic needs, soft loans zero rate of interest – all these have to be looked into. It is very important that the government helps the tourism and the aviation sectors which generate large scale employment generator and contributes 10% of the GDP. Governemnt should give priority to support this industry during this unexpected crisis situation.

Q: What do you think of the response of online booking companies during this period?

A: It is unfortunate that few tourists got stranded in Kerala and it was totally unexpected. I understand that most of them have come through online booking channels and unfortunately they had to face some difficulties. We understand all the tourists who have come to Kerala through approved tour operators and hoteliers have been well looked after.