The Travel Industry and the Coronavirus outbreak
The coronavirus, otherwise known as the COVID-19, has appalled the entire world with its devastating impacts on all sectors of the global economy. Yet the tertiary sector and specifically the travel industry within it remains the worst affected. As the coronavirus continues to remain unleashed, the list of people who are losing their jobs seems endless.
Within the global travel industry, nearly 50 million jobs are at risk, as reported by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Of the 50 million jobs that could be lost, around 30 million would be in Asia, seven million in Europe, five million in the Americas and, the rest in other continents. A major setback in the global economy remains unavoidable as an overwhelming number of jobs remain at risk and as a multitude of people in the aforementioned industry continues to lose their jobs.
What is the travel industry, what is its significance and why has COVID-19 affected it so severely?
The travel industry is one of the largest service industries in the world, an increasingly important one in the modern age. It is centered on the movement of people from one location to another, as well as the services they require along the way and is closely linked to the hospitality industry and the hotel industry, among others.
The travel industry as a whole is constituted of numerous sectors and sub-sectors, such as transportation (which includes the airline industry, railways, water transport, car rental, etc.), accommodation (which includes hotels, hostels, camping, cruises, etc.), entertainment (which includes tourist guides and tours, shopping, etc.) and many such sectors.
According to the World Bank, the share of the travel industry in the global economy as of 2018 was over 1400 billion dollars. This figure has plummeted downwards since the outbreak of the COVID-19, leaving behind a detrimental impact on the global economy.
Therefore, it can be seen that the travel industry plays a very important role in the economy, as well as each one of our lives, acting as a quasi-interface between us and our day-to-day activities. And hence, the revival of the travel industry requires the aid and contribution of each one of you, which can be done by simply understanding the problems and hardships faced by people involved in it and are waging a war to ensure their survival amidst these testing times.
What are the problems that the travel industry is facing?
In India, a complete lockdown had been imposed by the government to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. As a result of the lockdown, the movement of people was completely restricted, which adversely affected the travel industry.
Train services were not available, flights stopped operating, hotels were shut down, and a multitude of other states and nations too entered into a complete lockdown. Because of this, people did not have the choice to travel, either for leisure or for business, but to only wait for the lockdown to be lifted. However, even after the lockdown was lifted partially in India and completely in many other nations, people could not travel, or in most cases, even refused to travel. This was because of five reasons:
- While the lockdown had been partially lifted in India, people could still not travel to other nations, because numerous countries were still under lockdown and were not open to tourists or visitors.
- Even if other countries had come out of the lockdown, people were subjected to medical tests before they could travel; and they could travel only if they were asymptomatic.
- In a majority of instances, people refused leisure travel because most of them had suffered adverse financial losses and were not willing to do anything that would affect their financial security.
- Employed people too refused to travel, fearing a lay-off from their organization, which would further decrease their sense of financial and job security.
- Finally, the main reason why people refused to travel was the fear of contracting the coronavirus during their travel or losing their dear ones for the same reason.
The travel industry is one of the most dynamic industries, whose existence depends only upon the movement of people. However, due to the reasons mentioned above, the travel industry has suffered a major downfall in its overall growth.
The travel industry accounts for 12.75% of employment – 5.56% of it direct and 7.19% indirect. Over 87 million people were employed in the tourism industry in 2018-’19, according to the Ministry of Tourism’s annual report for 2019-’20. However, this number has drastically reduced in the fiscal year of 2020, with people either losing their jobs or taking up new jobs in an attempt to find a new means of survival and remuneration.
How can the travel industry be revived?
The first and foremost step that should be taken to ensure the revival of the travel industry (which will in turn help in stabilizing the economy) is by taking measures to sensitize the masses of India about the dramatic impacts of the COVID-19 on this industry, as well as educating them about this industry. This can be done by organizing campaigns that illustrate the measures that have been taken by the government to ensure the safety of travelers.
This will in turn help in boosting the confidence of people to travel, publishing articles and reports in newspapers which will aid in sensitizing the masses to the issue at hand, and creating online petitions that will result in targeting a wider number and variety of people. All these measures must be immediately taken by the government to ensure the immediate revival of the travel industry to prevent bankruptcy and millions of unprecedented layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) has recommended: “a complete deferment for twelve months of all statutory dues payable by tourism, travel and hospitality industry at the central government, states and municipal governments level without attracting any penal interest”. The FAITH has also recommended the setup of a Tourism COVID 19 Relief fund to by the RBI or the Ministry of Finance or Tourism to support salaries and establishment costs. The industry estimates the value of the fund to be a minimum of Rs 50,000 crore which is almost equal to gross banking credit to the Indian tourism industry. These recommendations of the FAITH must also be taken immediately into consideration by the government.
While the revival and safeguarding of the travel industry must be one of the priorities of the government, it must also be realized that you, the readers of this report too share a role in this. The revival of the travel industry can be possible only by understanding the tough times people engaged in the travel industry are facing and try to help them sail through this weather. The aim of this writing too has been to create this sense of mutual understanding. After all, we are on the same boat, and hence, we must take all possible measures to keep this boat from sinking.