Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism (MOT), claims that MOT is pushing for the industry’s demands to be heard, while creating a roadmap for promoting both inbound and domestic tourism. She says that the Ministry is aware of how lockdowns and restrictions significantly impact smaller businesses.
The second wave of the pandemic came as another major jolt to the travel business, agrees Rupinder Brar, adding that while it was a challenging time, the government is getting prepared on the vaccine front as well as making sure that travel restarts, albeit with protocols in place and being followed.
Reopening of monuments
From June 16, all centrally protected monuments, sites and museums under Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) were opened for tourists. Brar claims that the reports from visitors have been good. “We started getting reports of these monuments being already visited by a number of people from Day 1. However, at some places, including the Taj Mahal, there’s a restriction of no more than 650 people being permitted. This makes sense since we cannot forget COVID, and protocols need to be respected. All opening will need caution, both from government as well as travellers. MOT is putting a lot of advisories and advocacy on social media handles that one must travel without ignoring the protocols. Many places, particularly in the hill states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, will get many travellers as domestic tourism will open first, like last year,” she points out.
In light of the trickle-down effect on smaller businesses because of travel being stopped, Brar reveals that MOT, at all its levels, is talking to industry stakeholders and trying to find a way forward. “The Honourable Minister of Tourism & Culture has met a lot of sections of tourism and hospitality in dealing with the pandemic and finding ways in terms of how to generate confidence in potential travellers, what needs to be done, what mechanisms we can give and what kind of outreach should India be creating not only for domestic but for inbound travellers as well. This kind of discussion, at the minister’s level, as well as at the level of the officials, including the secretary and all of us, have seen a round of meetings planning the way forward in ensuring that India opens with great resolute strength and also remains an incredible destination to be visited,” she shares.
Claiming that the MOT was all set to launch the global media plan but had to put it on hold because of the onset of the pandemic, Brar says, “News started trickling in about the new variants of COVID-19. Hence, we had to take stock of the situation unfolding globally as well as in India, factoring in when to get into a more aggressive mode of promotion. Currently, we are sticking to social media platforms of Incredible India as well as MOT’s own handles to share information. However, looking at how things pan out globally as well as in India, we will need a lot of discussion with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Home Affairs, so that better decisions are made in terms of right time for opening, and our campaign will be in sync with the same as far as inbound is concerned. Our direct role continues to be putting a thrust on regeneration of demand. If travellers are coming in and business can operate and open again, then automatically a lot of issues get addressed,” she asserts.