n the post-pandemic era, domestic tourism is likely to grow, as people are fed-up with monotonous lifestyle, following the work from home culture. However, safety and hygiene are considered to be the new luxury. With the possible opening of foreign tourists’ entry into India in the first week of January 2022, as the vaccination drive will be almost over by December end, the tourism scene in India is likely to turn colourful.
Domestic tourists are looking for quick local getaways on weekends, mostly via road. As an Airbnb and YouGov survey on future trends of tourism reflects, Indian travellers are planning for nature travel to recharge themselves from the mundane lifestyle following lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed by state governments. In a recent survey on the future of tourism in India, 77% respondents stated that they would book hotels after observing the health and hygiene situation of the destination.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), international tourism has witnessed a loss of $1.3 trillion in 2020, while the Indian tourism industry saw a revenue loss of $ 1.25 trillion, according to a CARE Ratings study. The pandemic has impacted the tourism industry which will continue to underperform for the next two quarters. UNWTO has designated World Tourism Day (27 September, 2021) as a day to focus on ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth.’ Emphasis will be on formulating policies to ensure that nobody is left behind as the world begins to open up again and looks to the future.
The losses to the Indian tourism industry have been huge in the previous year, but things are now reviving with the increase in vaccination. States that are getting maximum tourists are Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Kerala and Goa. According to an international study, an investment of `10 lakh in the tourism industry provides employment to 78 persons, while the manufacturing sector generates only 45 jobs with a similar investment. Tourism will account for 9.9 per cent of the country’s GDP by the end of this decade with the help of government initiatives.
People these days are not in a hurry to visit many places in a limited time. Solo travel is also trending. If we talk about Indian travellers, as noted by travel agencies, there is a growing demand for off-beat tourism, which is affordable and offers adventure too, while helping local communities. People now prefer accommodations which offer them a private kitchen or a separate room for personal staff. Harsh Goenka, Chairman, RPG Enterprises, says, “Tourism will come back with a vengeance. People will like to
visit natural surroundings, more sustainable spots, more remote locations, more authentic experiences; but all this is supported with digital solutions and modern amenities.”
Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, MP from Ladakh, says, “With the outbreak of the pandemic the tourism sector in Ladakh suffered a large drop in business activities. Beside this, every year we also see the region mostly cut off from the rest of the country in the harsh winter season. Therefore, to counter such challenges, we are deliberating to make Ladakh a ‘Sustainable Tourist Destination’ so that round the year the region can get business.”
Professionals are considering sustainable travel choices that are closer to remote communities and nature, but are accessible and affordable. A group of senior doctors and surgeons from a big private hospital in Chandigarh preferred to visit Ladakh at a slow pace recently, mingling with the local communities on the way. They travelled from Srinagar to Leh on their bicycles staying at various local hotels and guesthouses. This constitutes a new travel trend.
With growing awareness about the negative impact of too much tourism in ecologically fragile regions like the Himalayan states, the importance of responsible and sustainable tourism is being felt more than ever. As Nihar Sharma, President, Sustainable Tourism Foundation, puts it, “We are planning to intensify our awareness campaigns regarding sustainable tourism practices and educating people about the importance of responsible tourism.”
Bhikhu Sanghasena, Founder and President, Save the Himalayas Foundation, Leh, says, “We have only one Himalayas. Saving the Himalayas is not only necessary for the welfare of local communities, but also for the betterment of the world.”
The writer is a long-time journalist. Views are personal.