Tribune News Service
Amritsar, August 3
The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the tourism and travel industry, which was once a booming sector. The industry has been battered after the stringent lockdown was imposed.
The city is just witnessing visits by tourists from within the state. Hoteliers say with a majority of the trains still off the tracks, flights suspended and travel restrictions on inter-state movement, people are refraining from visiting the tourist sites.
People are still avoiding their visits to crowded places even after the lifting of the curfew. The entire economy has been shaken. The financial status of prospective tourists has also taken a beating. With less purchasing power amid the pandemic, travellers are wary of hitting tourist places.
Meanwhile, the hotels are grappling with financial constraints as the footfall is very low and they also have to follow the guidelines released by the Central government.
As per these, they have to broadly follow 30 norms, including deployment of adequate manpower with Covid-19 protective norms, valet parking, a proper disinfection of steering, door handles, keys, etc, separate entry and exits for guests, securing travel history, medical condition etc, along with ID and self-declaration form of customers, adopting contactless processes such as QR code, online forms, digital payments such as e-wallets etc for both check-in and check-out, disinfecting luggage before entry in the hotels and exercising precautions while handling supplies, inventories and goods in the hotel.
They have also been asked to ensure proper queue management and disinfection, availability of appropriate personal protection gears and maintaining social distancing. Hoteliers say that these norms can only be followed by high-end hotels where customers with high paying capacity stay.
Consequently, the hotel industry has suffered a major blow after the imposition of the lockdown. There are about 850 hotels, lodges and inns in the holy city. There are about 50,000 directly and indirectly people employed in these units. They fear that the tour and travel industry will take over a year to achieve the same level of room occupancy as before the pre-Covid times.
Taxi operators and auto rickshaw drivers are vocal in their criticism against the Central and state governments for not sparing a thought for daily wagers like them. Sukhdev Singh, a taxi driver, said his taxi, which was financed from a bank, was seized by the bank as he was unable to pay the monthly instalment in the lockdown. He said his was not a case in isolation. A large number of taxi operators lost the ownership of their taxes in the lockdown.
Famous tourist sites
The city boasts of some famous world famous spots — the Golden Temple, the Jallianwala Bagh, the Durgiana Temple, ancient Ramtirath temple, which is believed to be hermitage of Bhagwan Valmiki, where he had composed Ramayana, Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, which also houses panorama giving graphic display of his life and reign, Pul Kanjri, a tourism site associated with the Maharaja, Gobindgarh Fort, Heritage Village, Partition Museum, which is housed in the British-era Municipal Corporation building, War Museum and the Attari-Wagah Joint Check Post.
Luxury retreats in city
Many luxury properties in the holy city have changed its character in the past few years. Several big names in the hospitality industry such as Radisson Blu, Ramada, Holiday Inn, Hyatt, Taj Swarna, Marriott and Park Plaza have been operating five-star hotels here. Except Ramada and Hyatt, rest of the five luxury hotels are open, but with negligible footfall. In addition, a five-star property is coming up inside the Circuit House and another of the same category hotel is proposed in the vicinity of Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport. In addition to this, eight more four-star category hotels are under construction.
I am struggling to make both ends meet. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, autos are allowed to ply with just three passengers. The passengers are already limited as tourists are not visiting the holy city. Not only this, even the BRTS buses are cornering the major share of the fares. —Rakesh Kumar, An autorickshaw driver
Even though some hotels were re-opened as per the guidelines, most of them have been without business. With no meetings, marriage parties, business conclaves, product launching and other activities taking place, the hospitality industry has been facing survival crisis. —APS Chatha, Chief, Hotel & Restaurant Association
It was for the first time after the lockdown that I came to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple. Earlier, I used to come frequently. I did not face any difficulty while travelling in car to reach here. This place has a huge potential for tourism. I would like to explore more sites here. —Jarnail Singh, A tourist from Muktsar
After the lifting of curfew, inter-state tourism started picking up the pace. Pilgrims have started visiting the holy city. But a huge chunk of tourists from outside the state as well as abroad are yet to come. We have also been hosting the medical staff in our hotel. —Ramandeep Singh, Incharge, SGPC Run Inn
Earlier, a huge influx of tourists resulted in setting up of over 100 taxi stands with most of them plying five to seven taxis each. We also used to take tourists to neighbouring states such as Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, but today, we have run out of income. —Raj Dhaliwal, Taxi operator
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