Equitable Tourism Options - EQUATIONS Statement
on the occasion of
World Tourism Day, 27th September 2021

The theme for the World Tourism Day 2021 by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is Tourism for Inclusive Growth. UNWTO states that -
“This is an opportunity to look beyond tourism statistics and acknowledge that, behind every number, there is a person. UNWTO invites its Member States, as well as non-members, sister UN agencies, businesses and individuals to celebrate tourism’s unique ability to ensure that nobody is left behind as the world begins to open up again and look to the future.”

The idea of inclusive growth especially post the pandemic would be something to ponder upon on this world tourism day.We call upon the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and the tourism promoters to uphold the principle of “leave no one behind” as a key element for inclusive tourism growth which will be sustainable and ethical.

The pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink the practices in tourism as everything came to a grinding halt post March, 2020 in India. As the government and the industry is readying itself to restart tourism with new plans and policies, we urge them to keep in mind the idea of inclusive growth and democratic practices when restarting tourism.

As this day would be celebrated all over the globe, we continue to see joblessness in the tourism destinations especially after the second wave. The pandemic has also shown that the current model of tourism is not resilient and sustainable as the condition worsened in the towns /cities wherein the whole economy is primarily dependent on tourism.

A study conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research suggests largely on the tourism economy or tourism direct gross value added (TDGVA) of India which of course had impacts on the human power working in the tourism industry. The study notes 14.5 million jobs being lost in the Q1 of 2020-21 and these are just figures of the people directly involved in tourism. We urge the Governments to hear the voices of the most vulnerable groups - migrant workers, street vendors, taxi drivers, Rikshawalas, women etc in the tourism industry who are directly or indirectly connected to the tourism industry. Several workers in spite of being employed in the organized sector, are either contractual or casual workers without security of employment in the tourism sector. We would like to emphasize the need for consultations with these groups while the governments are making policies and plans to reboot tourism.

The recent announcement by Government of India on the free tourist visas and provision of financial support in the form of working capital/personal loans with 100% percent guarantee with a limit of Rs 10 lakh for travel and tourism stakeholders and Rs 1 lakh for registered tourist guides, with no processing charges and waiver of prepayment charges. Although the
loan guarantees will help improve liquidity in the industry, it does not provide any direct stimulus. No relief on the interest rates on loans, will further hamper the industry's dismal future as tourism is still picking up in the backdrop of emergence of Covid-19 variants. We would like to suggest in this regard, to give some incentives to the beneficiaries in the form of reduced interest rates or loan moratorium extension.

Recognising the fact that revival in the tourism sector will be largely spearheaded by Domestic tourism, the Ministry initiated arranging a series of webinars under the overall theme of Dekho Apna Desh. The objective was to generate awareness and at the same time sustain interest amongst stakeholders, students and the general public. While domestic tourism might be the norm for at least another year, the governments should include the local community to promote the local cultural aspects. We can see that tourism is multifaceted and has participation from a diverse set of stakeholders. Recently, the previous Union tourism Minister, Prahlad Singh Patel, emphasised on the importance of multi stakeholder consultations when he spoke about finalizing the master plan for the iconic tourist destinations in the country.

But,the current plans of reopening / revival are largely not suggesting anything new from the past. We are missing the opportunity of reviving the more resilient and sustainable tourism with a ‘business as usual’ approach.

Along with the crisis of COVID19, the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has also highlighted tourism. Tourism industry is responsible for 8% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC targets a 50% reduction in the global carbon emissions by the year 2030 and a net zero emission goal by 2050. It is hence crucial that the industry keeps in check its carbon footprint to achieve these goals.

To ensure that tourism is truly inclusive, resilient and sustainable, it should be defined by the local communities, as it is practised in their homelands and it impacts their lives. The local people of the tourist destinations should decide its destiny.