ON  20 Apr, 2021

A second wave of Covid-19 and the ensuing restrictions can eliminate the tourism sector in Kerala, the industry’s captains and workers fear, announcing they will observe May 1 as Black Day to press the state government to resolve the grave issue.

The Tourism Samrakshana Samithi, while noting that the segment was struggling even amid a stimulus package from the government, said the future looked bleaker with the prospects of massive job loss and shutdown of allied businesses.

Even those generating some revenue out of tourism are in dire straits, noted the umbrella body for 20 organisations. It will observe the Labour Day state-wide this time by wearing black masks, and further announce the grimness in the sector by carrying out a social media campaign with #SaveTourism as the hashtag.

Tourism has been a mainstay of the Kerala economy with the sector generating an income of Rs 44,000 crore annually and providing employment to 15 lakh people both directly and otherwise. For 14 months now, tourism in the state has been struggling to come out of the travails in the wake of the pandemic.

Towards October last year, tourism showed faint signs of improvement, but they weren’t enough to inspire confidence among the stakeholders in the sector. Many of them stared at big-time debt, attachment of property and mounting arrears in the payment of taxes and bills on water and power. Besides, extra expenses were incurred to meet the Covid-19 protocols.

Into February this year, Kerala topped the country’s list on Covid-positive patients, reducing the inflow of domestic tourists to a trickle. What’s more, other state governments imposed a law that necessitated a Covid-negative certificate from Kerala-returned tourists.

Amid the worsening situation, the second wave of Covid-19 currently led he administration to imposer further restrictions on travel. Of the 18,000 people who tested Covid-positive the other day, only 269 were from outside Kerala — and none of them in the state as tourists. Even so, none in the tourism sector has so far tested positive for the novel corona virus, showing the earnestness of its workers in following the Covid-19 protocols.

The Samithi has proposed to the authorities to give all tourism workers immediate access to the vaccine against Covid-19. It wants the jobless to be provided Rs 5,000 a month, a package aiding the labour involved in tourism, exemption of taxes and fees for tourist vehicles and houseboats, moratorium on paying tax arrears, cancellation of KFC’s blood bank policy, remove the fixed charge on power for hotels and concession on bills. The organisation also sought the withdrawal of clamp on tourist movements, not make RTPCR testing compulsory for tourists visiting Kerala and returning, and a 24-month moratorium on GST.

The organisations under the Samithi with Sudheesh Kumar as the convenor include Association of Tourism Trade Organisations (ATTOI), Confederation of Accredited Tour Operators (CATO), South Kerala Hoteliers Forum (SKHF), Kerala Tourism Protection and Development Council (KTPDC) and Kovalam Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA).

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