The past year has been devastating for the sector and the effects of pandemic continue to unfold on the domestic tourism sector. In a reply to a Lok Sabha question, the tourism ministry said that the foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in nine months to December 2020 stood at 0.21 million, which is down over 97 per cent as compared to the same period in 2019 when FTAs stood at 7.75 million.
Since March, the suspension of international flights has been extended many times, and such scheduled flights continue to remain suspended till February 28. Though the government had started Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) and travel bubbles with several countries, the amount of traffic in these flights remains fairly restricted.
Although India has a bigger domestic tourist market, FTAs contribute significantly to the economy in the form of foreign exchange earnings (FEEs). In 2019, for instance, FEEs stood at $29.96 billion and $28.59 billion in the year before that. From January to June 2020, this number reportedly dropped to $6.15 billion.
In order to assess the impact of Covid pandemic on the travel and tourism sector, the tourism ministry recently asked New Delhi-based NCAER (National Council of Applied Economic Research) to study the overall loss in income of the economy and of the household sector, as well as job losses in the tourism sector due to the pandemic. In addition, the study would seek to propose policy measures to provide relief to the tourism sector in general, and households involved in tourism-related activities in particular.
As per WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) estimates, 174 million travel and tourism jobs are expected to be lost in 2020 due to the pandemic. In India, the job loss is estimated to be 5 million.
The tourism sector has made a series of requests to the ministry to alleviate their problems but there has been no direct relief that has come from the government. As part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, the government allocated Rs 3 lakh crore worth of collateral free automatic loan to MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) that's believed to have provided some relief to companies involved in the tourism sector. The government also waived off provident fund contribution for three months for organisations having up to 100 employees with 90 per cent earning less than Rs 15,000 a month.