Although the travel and tourism sector accounts for nearly 10% of GDP, it has been one of the hardest hit sectors since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sector is estimated to have seen negative growth over the past 17 months, which even before the pandemic hit India, with no glimmer of hope in the near future.
In the state, the sector had seen negative growth of around 83% from April to December 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic, which worsened during the second wave, despite the state government announcing some proactive steps, according to industry captains.
“The sector may not begin to recover to 2019 levels until 2024, according to a McKinsey report,” said K. Vijay Mohan, president of the Tours and Travel Associations of Andhra.
The industry deals with bankruptcies, company closures and mass unemployment.
On the verge of closure
In a letter to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, the association pointed out that banks with no income and adequate support from both state and central governments do not lend and there is no fund to maintain offices and salaries to pay.
“It is estimated that around 50% of travel agencies are near bankruptcy and about to close their businesses. Vijay Mohan.
He said travel agencies in the state employed almost 6,000 people and 95% of jobs were at risk.
The association members called on the Prime Minister to present an economic stimulus package to save the travel sector.
“We asked the chief minister to form a committee with officials from the tourism and finance departments and stakeholders to draft a financial package to save travel agents,” said Vijay Mohan.
Other requested concessions include waiver of electricity bills, deferral of property tax for 2020 and 21, exemption from interstate road tolls and inner-city tax for tourist buses, and notification of tourism as a vaccination priority.
In the hope that the second wave would soon subside, the association members demanded that the government grant the travel sector industrial status, declare 2022 the year of visits to Andhra Pradesh, open beaches with a hut policy and private zones to foreigners. They also wanted Vizag to be declared the country’s first open-sky airport and gateway destination with a Visa-on-Arrival facility, and to be promoted as a religious tourist destination.
Other measures like starting a night safari at Vizag Zoo and opening midnight restaurants could improve the sector’s prospects, they said.