Bleak prospects for tourism sector, bailout need of the hour: Jose Dominic

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The government’s attitude towards the tourism sector is very provincial according to Jose Dominic who has been one of the pioneers of the tourism industry in Kerala. The brief is that ‘we know best, and you better obey us’ and that’s very demotivating for those trying to make a foray into the field. 

Unlike the state of KTDC employers who could be paid from the taxpayers, the ordinary tourism employers cannot have that luxury. When it comes to matters pertaining to the tourism sector, the government doesn’t take the opinion of those in the field. No one is unduly worried about how they are surviving the pandemic. 

The success of Kerala tourism is not a result of big companies or groups but thanks mostly to start-ups and small-time entrepreneurs. Dominic opines that post the second wave it will be difficult for the tourism sector to survive. 

How will the tourism industry affect the economy of the state?

When it comes to the State finances, tourism adds 11.7% profits. According to the 2019-20 period tourism industry provided Rs.45000 crore to the state. This was the case just before the pandemic took over. Over 15 lakh people got jobs in the tourism industry. After tourism, the next round of profits is coming from NRIs. IT is still in its nascent stage in Kerala. 

All this will adversely affect the revenue of Kerala. Taxi drivers, homestay owners to those who sell tender coconut water, and other small traders will be forced to shut shop. Unfortunately, the government is yet to understand the enormity of the situation. 

In fact, American Economist and Nobel prize winner Joseph Eugene Stiglitz recently observed that Kerala should let go of its overdependence on Middle East money and give their full attention to improving their best available resources in tourism to better the economic growth in the state. 

But one can’t entirely ignore the Covid protocols as well?

If we look around, we will realise that no one follows the covid protocols more promptly and precisely than the tourism industry. Today for instance hotels discourage buffet service and insists on only à la carte services in restaurants. Though the government insists on packed food, that really isn’t the solution. 

More than in any field, it’s the hospitality industry that is worst affected by the pandemic and they would give anything to go back to the old normal. But when the government introduces covid protocols they don’t really discuss the plans with those in the tourism sector. 

What should banks do? Moratorium? 

Even the State government has no control over the banks. Banks' decisions are made by their own authorities or those sitting in Delhi. Having said that the State government should implement brand new plans to bail out the homestays, restaurants, and hotels that are in the doldrums. 

May 1 will be seen as a black day by the tourism industry 

Personally, I am against it. There is no point in getting agitated over this now. It’s the government that should change its attitude. Look at the plight of bars. They haven’t recognised the importance of clubbing with the tourism sector. They can't even afford a glass of wine to the tourists, with the bar license fee being 32 lakhs (The highest in India). Last year despite the bars remaining shut for months the license fee remained unchanged. 

(Jose K Dominic is the former MD and co-founder of CGH Earth and is founder of Farmstead) 

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