The lock out is extended and it is to remain in force till 3 May, 2020. The challenge before society is a big one and the aim is to break this pandemic at any cost. The economy, corporate and education sectors cannot afford any further lockdowns.
Whilst we hope that things will turn in our favor, but still resumption of normal life, trade and industry remains a big question. What will be the new normal?
Let us consider these factors for Udaipur in particular, where Travel and Tourism is among the main industries. After going through an unprecedented crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the revival of the same would take considerable time and things shall not be as usual for six months, may a year or even more. The post lockdown period shall still warrant people to stay at home and in the bargain it is tourism, which is to suffer the most. This industry is already bleeding due to the lockdown, where bookings have been canceled, events have been put off and no fresh orders are in sight. It seems that this sector, hospitality included, will become one of the biggest victims of the Coronavirus Lockdown, at least in Udaipur and other tourism centric towns across India, and maybe globally.
In Udaipur, there are a good number of hotels and some of them are ranked best in world. If the data of annual tourist arriving in Rajasthan is any indication, the best was 2019 and 2020 is going to be probably the worst. For the time being, it has come down to zero and post removal of lockdown, the revival thereof is not in sight.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), a nonprofit industry group based in London, the travel and tourism industry contributed $8.8 trillion to the global economy in 2018. This accounted for 10.4 percent of all economic activity. The council estimates that travel and tourism are responsible for 319 million jobs around the world. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) had forecast a 3–4 percent growth in 2020. However, the forecast for the year 2020 is scary, after the unprecedented and unforeseen lockdown.
The picture, post lock down is going to be grim. The New York Times, in one of its reports states, “Millions are losing their jobs and economies are suffering as once-bustling tourist sites give way to strange emptiness.” WTTC says the sector is bound to lay off one million jobs a day, alarming indeed. They envision the industry could lose 75 million jobs and as much as $2.1 trillion by the end of the year.
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) also predicts similar numbers in job losses with Asia Pacific region losing approximately 48.7 million jobs as a result of the pandemic. Udaipur is no exception and the brunt of the epidemic will remain for a long time and more so when the most sought after marriage destination is surely going to remain dry. Future marriages are going to be a low key affair with participants and guest numbers declining drastically. Destination weddings for at least some time, will witness its trough in months to come. With a recent Harvard study suggesting that social distancing could be the norm for another two years, at least all such fancy elements will take some time to see the light of day.
I recall, during longer weekly holidays or say 3 to 4 consecutive holidays, I have been travelling from Ahmedabad to Udaipur regularly. NH -8 was found to be full of GJ numbered cars as if all rushing to Udaipur and beyond to enjoy holidays. Thus, Udaipur and around has been a most sought after destination for Gujarati people. The time ahead is not going to be same and the after effect of COVID-19 shall continue to haunt and people would need to maintain distance in days to come. These week ends used to have full occupancy of the hotels in the city. This generated other allied employments too, like rent-a-cab. Hotels have a compulsion and they cannot shut down fully in order to keep worthiness of their services like generators, elevators, restaurants, laundry facilities and many more. Thus, they will continue to incur expenditures on upkeep and salary to the hospitality staff with no returns in sight for months to come. Even business travel will take a hit, with flight operators already indicating a spike in rates to keep their businesses in the green.
It remains to be seen that after lifting of lock down how the government will take note of the gushing effects of the pandemic on tourism and hospitality. The other sector in Udaipur i.e small traders to industries like manufacturer and factories are to pass through same challenges. As a community, we all with tolerance and support from Govt policies will have to dedicate towards revival.