Sejoe Jose, President, IATO Kerala Chapter, shifts the focus on tourist guides, drivers and hygiene measures at monuments in a post-COVID-19 world. He also says that people who travel domestically will automatically be brand ambassadors in showcasing to the world how safe India is to travel to.
First and foremost, we need help with our office staff. The Central government needs to start pumping money into State governments to help sustain our staff. That is the primary problem we face today. We need a rescue plan for them, as our billing today is zero every month. With that, paying our staff has become very, very difficult for us. We can do it for one or two months at the most; beyond that, it is a Herculean task. Until this package is announced, a zero to four per cent interest payable in 2021 will be ideal for small to medium-sized travel agents. We don’t expect domestic travel to begin before October 2020 and international travel before January 2021.
Another sector that we need to address is Government of India-approved tourist guides. They have been struggling with zero work and they need to be looked after. Another community that needs immediate help is over a million drivers in the organised and unorganised sector who are stuck without work. Some of them have invested all their savings into their vehicles. Our request to the government is to please look at them as they are also part of the tourism fraternity.
We should use this time to conduct webinar trainings for our guides, especially for foreign language-speaking guides, be it Japanese, French or German to name a few. Kerala lacks this and it is a good time to ask them to register for language training programmes.
The Kerala government should also look into creating an India panel that will look at tourism post COVID-19. Cleanliness of each of our destinations and monuments and what steps can be taken to keep them clean must be decided. Let us also, as an industry, stop using plastic bottles and develop a system to completely remove plastic from our system.
We need to send out positive messages to the world to keep them updated on what India and Kerala are doing towards medical tourism and how India is prepping itself to ensure that visitors will be protected. We need to create a positive message around the world that India is definitely a safe place to visit in future when things get normal.
We need to understand how we can get the ball rolling for tourism. Yes, marketing is very important, but one of the most important things to do right now is to start supporting each other locally. We also need to start encouraging various corporate companies in India and families to start doing their events and weddings in our country and in our state, by giving them attractive deductions in GST or making the package attractive and incentivising them. Ultimately, the people who attend these M!CE events and weddings, or go on domestic holidays, are going to be our marketing people as they are going to showcase to the world our products through
social media and how safe our destinations are.