COVID-19 job loss

Tourism sector in Himachal bears the brunt

Tourism sector in Himachal bears the brunt

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, May 6

The already grim employment scenario in the hill state could worsen, as gloom and uncertainty grip the tourism sector, one of the biggest job providers, and the fear of huge job losses turning into reality.

A sizeable chunk of the population is dependent on the sector; there are more than 8,000 hotels and over 4,000 home stay facilities in Shimla, Kullu-Manali, Dharamsala, Dalhousie and Kasauli. Most of the hotel owners have paid salaries to its employees for March but laid off of 90 per cent of the staff — the unemployment figure is close to 11 lakh.

The adverse impact will not be limited to the employees of hotels; a large number of taxi owners, drivers, guides, porters, dhaba owners and small shopkeepers will feel the pinch. Tourism contributes 7 per cent to the state GDP. Added to this is the contingent of the youth, who have returned from places like Goa, Delhi and Maharashtra where they were employed. While the highest workforce of 3.50 lakh is employed in the industrial sector, trade and tourism are the second biggest job providers for a little over three lakh in total 9.77 lakh workforce in the private sector.

“It is dark future ahead for the hotel industry and unless the government comes to our rescue, survival will be tough for most of us,” says Sanjay Sood, president of Shimla Hoteliers and Restaurant Association.

Sanjeev Gandhi, general secretary, Smart City Dharamsala Hotel Association, said the government should constitute a task force, taking the hoteliers on board, to formulate a strategy to save and revive the sector, as they were clueless about how to move forward.

Endowed with abundant natural beauty, Himachal had attracted 1.72 crore tourists in 2019, witnessing a constant increase over previous years.

Though the number is far more, as per the Tourism Department data, there are 3,679 hotels with 1.03 lakh bed capacity and 2,189 home stay facilities with a bed capacity of 12,181. Indirect employment and gains of tourism were reaching out to even remotest areas like Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur.

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