Himachal Pradesh — the name definitely pops up whenever one thinks of the mountain state. In summer holidays, when schools would be closed, parents, children and people who just wanted to chill and take a break from the wreaking hot summer of plains used to plan and visit the mountain state to enjoy its chilly weather.
Just when the country was showing a sign of revival from Covid, the second wave jinxed its growth and economy once again. Tourism is facing another year of loss due to which destinations such as Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Goa and Himachal Pradesh are enduring another year of loss, and struggling through the pandemic.
The travel and tourism industry has already been facing a downfall since last year, but in the middle of 2020, when cases started decreasing, people started moving out to travel, to feel alive again. Amid the pandemic, it has become difficult for people to move out of their homes and feel fresh while traveling from their places to another.
A question arises while talking about managing the pandemic: whether or not states such as Himachal Pradesh — whose majority of the economy depends on travel and tourism and the rest on small handicrafts, horticulture and others — would be able to revive after the second wave or would hoteliers and small business owners have to shut business.
Though the RBI introduced the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme 3.0, due to its draconian conditions, the majority of tourism stakeholders were not able to take the benefit of the scheme. The biggest condition that hinders these stakeholders from taking up the scheme is the cut-off date of the outstanding balance of loan taken as of February 29, 2020. Another condition was that the account should not have a default of more than 60 days as on February 2020.
According to one of the articles, hoteliers had to take fresh loans last year to cope up with the situation as there was no help provided by the government to small units. They were hopeful of repaying the instalments after the revival of the businesses after Unlock 1.0. But as the tourism sector once again takes a toll in the second wave, they are now worried about repaying their debt.
Tourism sector has also requested the government to amend the rules, extend the cut-off date to March 2021 and provide relaxation in several days of default of the EMI as the tourism sector of Himachal Pradesh has once again come to a halt since March 2021. As soon as the graph of the cases goes down, hoteliers have requested the government to loosen up restrictions for tourists so that the state can at least come back to the track. The tourism industry is already losing the three-month summer tourist season just like last year. This plays a key role in the sustainability of the hotel industry.
Hoteliers and many others survived last year, but if the situation remains the same and tourism sector does not revive this year, it will be difficult for many of them. We will be left with no option but to shut down their functioning or lay off some staff.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur says the government is handling the situation of the local economy well enough and is constantly in touch with the tourism industry to guide them in the best possible way. In one of his interviews with India Today, he mentioned that his government reduced the burden of hoteliers last year by waving off their water and electricity charges, and this year also, they’re reviewing the situation and making plans.
According to him, the state’s funds have been severely strained and there are only a few options available to provide considerable assistance or announce a specific plan. The GST collection is also down, although not as much as it was last year. The state public transport system, HRTC or Himachal Road Transport Corporation, is losing money and shutting down, as are private carriers and taxi drivers. This is the time of year when they could have made money.
So, here again, one of the best words to remind us that everything is not over yet: “The recession won’t be over till we raise a generation that knows how to live on what they’ve got.” That no matter what, you’ve got stand united and remind yourself: “This too shall pass, it might pass like a kidney stone, but be patient, it will pass.”