R'sthan tourism sector in doldrums during COVID, courtesy govt's inaction

1/13/2021

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Call it an irony or bad luck for Rajasthan that despite earning huge revenues as a leading tourist state of India, it is operating without a tourism minister since the last seven months. The bureaucrats are also being shunted at regular intervals, leaving this significant sector in a fix.

The tourism industry in Rajasthan, before the COVID crisis, was attracting tourists from across the world, earning foreign exchange and boosting the revenues of the state. However, amid the pandemic times, the industry has come to a standstill as there has been no push from the government to revive the industry, rather it has been embroiled in political controversies making it headless amid the tough times.

Tourism minister Vishvendra Singh was divested of his portfolio in July soon after then deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot staged a rebellion against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot demanding a change of leadership.

Since then, the tourism ministry is operating sans a minister and even during the COVID crisis the industry received no significant help from the state government, say industry leaders.

Eventually, the unemployment rate in the state has surged to 28.2% as per CMIE figures released on January 12, which is three times higher than the country's average unemployment rate of 8.3%. In August, this figure stood at 17.5 per cent.

Speaking on this, Randhir Vikram Singh, president of the Indian Heritage Hotels Association said, "A total of 22 percent of the workforce in Rajasthan is supported by tourism while 30 pc of the state's GDP comes from tourism. Since March 21, there has been a complete wipeout of tourism, and despite this, the government did not come out with anything significant. Hence comes this unemployment rate. The promises made to us were great but nothing was done," he added.

Another hotelier, Prithvi Singh said, "Rajasthan depends on tourism, exports and handicrafts. Because of the pandemic, all three segments are shut as of now. Hence the rise in the unemployment rate. The need of the hour is aggressive marketing of tourism as it creates jobs for millions of people in the state directly and indirectly."

Sharing details of the challenges faced by the industry, Randhir Vikram Singh said that those hotels not running since months are still receiving whopping electricity bills. "The hotel industry can't be termed as an 'industry' for it is not given facilities as are being given under the industry status. Further, while the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation hotels are exempted from paying licence fee for bars, the private hoteliers are being asked to pay the same. Why this biased attitude?"

He said that "there have been wide-scale lay-offs and salary cuts across the industry."

Speaking of the tough competition between the states, he said, "Every state is competing when it comes to tourism. Look at Kerala, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. In fact, neighbouring MP gives whopping subsidies for a movie shoot. Why can't Rajasthan give it too. If we get movie shoots done here, diverse sectors can benefit from it. We have lakes, palaces, jungles and much more but why are film producers running to MP. It's because they are getting benefits which the Rajasthan government has failed to provide them," he added.

"Tourism, till date, has earned revenue for the state, but for the first time it is bleeding and hence we want the government's attention. We can't sit on the roads and protest unlike others but can simply ask for attention to ensure this industry is not ignored."

Source: IANS

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