The generic meaning of hodophobia is an irrational fear of travel. This fear is seemed to be no longer irrational as the COVIT 19 pandemic has brought about a rational fear throughout the world. This fear, and apparently the measures, is similar to SARS in 2003. While overall decreasing consumptions is a growing concern for this large market economy in India, reduced confidence of principal suppliers and investors of travel and tourism industry is experiencing the waning volume of their capitals as never before. United Nations World Tourism Organization estimates international tourist arrivals could decline by 20% to 30% in 2020.
Health emergency has brought about economic, socio-political, transport and travel emergencies around the world. The world is going against the basic principles of globalization. Lockdown results in less production, distribution, consumption and thereby sickness of market economy. The tourism sector, like no other economic activity with social impact, is based on interaction amongst people. Social distancing and consequent social exclusion has just reversed the priority of consumptions, distribution pattern and overall attitudes and behaviour of tourists in India. Principal suppliers making arrangements for safe infrastructure for tourists while striving to operate even in break-even level.
A major area in tourism and hospitality industry belongs to informal and subsidiary sectors in our country. During this global emergency at an unprecedented scale, many small and medium hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and tour operating organizations will not be able to survive. With loss of capital and provision for health and safety measures many travel houses, hotels and other principal suppliers have been operating at break-even level. Again, maintaining such level for a longer period of time is very hard for larger hotels with huge fixed costs.
A Silver Lining:
Again, most of the expert opinions are in favour of rejuvenating tourism and hospitality industry through India’s domestic tourism segment as it helped rejuvenation immediately after economic meltdown during 2008-2009. Therefore, domestic tourism is the immediate trump card. It is evident that the large numbers of people coming back to popular tourists sites and major cities across China over the country’s holiday weekend, despite warnings from health authorities that the risk posed by the corona virus pandemic remains far from over (CNN, 7th April, 2020). The same is quite natural once this pandemic is controlled in India and many destinations will exceed the carrying capacity level, mostly by domestic tourists. It is also logical that people will start such types of tourism that are not in crowded place, rather comparatively new and naive in nature. Therefore, special niches of tourism or non-mass tourism will be the wise option. But, supply will be lumpy to cater to this hike. Travel for health, education, employment, will also accelerate the demand quickly once this pandemic is controlled or over.
A Way Out:
The abrupt return to apparent normality in India may bring out other problems as many tourist sites have been experiencing in China. A concerted and coordinated policy effort is also expected with immediate attention by the destination planning authorities in India. Therefore, ever increasing loss, need for safe and sanitized infrastructure and image building for safe tourism bring out new challenges and need for fund. But raising fund at this point of time for this worst affected sector is difficult.
Larger travel houses, multinational hotel chains, airlines, railways and other travel principals need separate guidelines for safe tourism. Many enterprises will have to come up with new infrastructure and safety measures, distinctive to their services. This may include low cost corona testing kits, robot for delivering food, beverages, portable sanitizing machine at each room, and drone for sanitization in and around hotels, airports and other tourist spots, mobile apps for risk calculation, violation of quarantine etc. Fortunately most of the devices are already invented by the educational and research institutes in India, and medicines and vaccines are in progress. But, these will increase the cost of operation, delivery and subsequently the price of each tour component. Therefore, successful future brands are those are able to take up those challenges and diminishing hodophobia with changing pace of time and technology.
Dr. Debasish Batabyal has been teaching Travel and Tourism Management at the Department of Travel and Tourism, Amity University, Kolkata, West Bengal. His areas of research interest include eTourism, Sustainable Tourism and Social Solidarity Economy, and Destination development and planning.
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