FM Sitharaman totally ignored and untouch tourism and hospitality sector: Sudhir Sharma
Says this sector is backbone of Himachal economy
Dharamshala: Sudhir Sharma former cabinet minister HP government and secretary All India Congress Committee (AICC) said today that Himachal state economy is totally dependent on tourism sector which is badly hit due to Covid-19. He said, “Even as the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman ended her long saga of relief and reform package to revive economy the travel, tourism and hospitality sector remained totally ignored and untouched. It is estimated that over seven lakh people in Himachal Pradesh directly or indirectly depend on tourism and the tourism sector contributes more than 6.6 per cent to the state GDP.” The Covid-19 threat had brought doom to the tourism industry. The state and Central governments should provide a bailout package to the tourism industry for its revival to benefit each and every person associated with this industry.
While talking in Dharamshala on Thursday, Sudhir Sharma said that the pandemic and travel restrictions that followed have tremendously hit the tourism sector in the state. The Himachal government in mid March banned the entry of tourists in the state and with that the main source of the state's economy was also choked. There are 3,350 hotels, 1,656 home stays and 2,912 travel agencies registered with the tourism department in 2019, which are struggling to stay afloat with no tourists entering the state as of now. Not just hoteliers but guides, adventurers and taxi drivers too have been affected severely.
AICC Secretary added, “According to data released by the state government, as many as 3.82 lakh foreign and 1,68,29,231 domestic tourists arrived in the state during 2019 but this year, the ones that were already here in early March were sent back and the state border was sealed - not allowing anyone to enter the state. Also adventure sports activities like paragliding, rafting, trekking and other related activities are totally paralysed and people related to them are in shock.”
Demanding immediate revival relief for this revenue generating industry of Himachal ex Minister said that the industry has been demanding for financial stimulus for the revival as they are in a “state of shock & disbelief” to the insensitive attitude of the union government to one of the worst hit sectors of the economy. He said , “On the one hand the government speaks about creating employment and on the other hand, they are absolutely senseless to a sector which directly employs around 38 million people. The government has failed to support the industry for its survival, the businesses will be now left with no alternative but to retrench people. The big talks of reforms and Ease of Doing business claims by the union government, and there was no effort from them to get the refunds due for the tickets booked by travel agents from the international and domestic airlines.”
He said that the state economy is a lot dependable on tourism sector the state government has to take decision keeping in mind the tourism clusters. The Kangra, Kullu-Manali and Shimla sectors which have a better connectivity should be given more priority. These six months are the peak season for these sectors, the state government can make domestic use charges be applied on electricity and water bills of hotels and restaurants. Infact also they can make non-commercial rate on property tax and waiver of license renewal fee, for next 18 to 24 months.