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Future of Domestic Travel Post-Lockdown With businesses reaching a standstill, the tourism industry is in dire need of government support and compensatory injections to survive this dreaded virulent onslaught.

By Dharamveer Singh Chouhan

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the entire planet to a freeze as all human activities and operations have been adjourned indefinitely. There are figures emerging from different corners about the cumulative choking impact of the pandemic on global trade and commerce. Unsurprisingly, with the total lockdown of fight operations, railways and all forms of transport and travel, it is the tourism industry that has faced the most crippling brunt of the pandemic.

The pandemic could have an incapacitating effect on the country's tourism sector with the industry valuating an overarching loss of INR 5 trillion and an accompanying employment slash for over 40 million people. Within the sector itself, too, the organized segments of hospitality, travel agencies, tour operators and the cruising industry which form the essential crux of the tourism sector stand to lose a staggering INR 1.5 lakh crore.

With international borders sealed indefinitely, global tourism is certainly out of bounds in the upcoming future. The only alternative business solution in the current scenario would be a scrupulous reassessment and revamping of the entire industry. The need for immediate supplementary solutions to revive the industry and to get the sector back on track, once the lockdown is lifted, would be the imminent need of the hour.

With businesses reaching a standstill, the tourism industry is in dire need of government support and compensatory injections to survive this dreaded virulent onslaught. Even if the pandemic gets contained and the occurrence of novel cases subsides, it will take a minimum period of at least 8-10 months for the industry to revive itself and emerge from the rubble. With the tourism industry accounting for about 10 per cent of the national GDP, the corporate stagnation can only improve with effective financial reprieve from the government.

Several bodies from the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors have appealed to the government for the provision of interim respite to disburse essential EMIs, installments, taxes, and salaries to the employees. The road to recovery for the industry is an uphill task of the highest order but not an impossible feat, if planned accordingly.

The entire industry faces an existential crisis the moment the tourism industry is gasping for breath and unless the government pronounces instant sectoral relief, the situation will only worsen with time.

A short-term interest-free or low-interest loan policy on part of the government will assist in rekindling and renovating businesses. Further recommended is a 12-month deferment of all statutory dues and a moratorium period of additional three to six months on all working capital principal, interest payments on loans and overdrafts depending upon the need of the hour.

In such a scenario a deeply focused realignment of the domestic tourism sector holds the key to business-revival post-lockdown. Depending upon the efficacy of the lockdowns and restrictions, the most feasible guesstimate path to economic recuperation would be an L-shaped prolonged recovery arc rather than a v-shaped travel.

With pre-pandemic norms expected to re-emerge by the end of the year and international travel still off the charts, domestic travel could ultimately fuel the resurgence of the tourism sector. While this possibility will probably commence with corporate travel, it is also a veritable prospect for the domestic market to empower advancements in the tourism infrastructure of domestic tourist hubs through appropriate investments and funding.

This tapping of internal travel hotspots would open up countless more opportunities and unlock them for travelers. With more domestic destinations witnessing a surge in domestic footfall post the pandemic, there remains a hope for the creation of a network-effect equivalent in domestic travel that can help hasten the revitalization of the said industry.

With the general economic slowdown reducing consumption rates across all industries, these will possibly manifest in the travel industry in the shape of RevPar (revenue per available room) and occupant residencies falling by a substantial 30 per cent margin.

The pandemic is sure to catalyze significant transformations in the physical, social, economic, and psychological mindset of the customers. There is likely to be a considerable rise in a user's concern for one's personal well being, addressing the innate phobia of quarantine and isolation and a reinvigorated focus on payment issues, cancellation policies among other things.

Ensuring the consummate hygiene of people and places, heightened security, market transparency, and building\fortifying brand loyalty are going to be chief enablers for tourism players to construct the path to industrial rejuvenation and business recovery.

Dharamveer Singh Chouhan

Co-founder & CEO, Zostel


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