Trade bodies in West Bengal are pressing for relaxation of the partial lockdown measures clamped by the government on the job intensive tourism sector and have demanded its relaxation.
The travel restriction announced by the Mamata Banerjee government to contain the spread of the disease in the state has severely impacted the state’s tourism industry, they said on Monday.
This season sees high flow of visitors to the mountains in north Bengal, the Sundarbans, Santiniketan, in the sea resorts of Digha and Mandarmani and other tourist destinations in the state. The restrictions have pushed to the wall again the tourism sector which was recovering after the previous ones in 2020 and 2021, the spokesman of the trade bodies said.
The Travel Agents Association of Bengal (TAAB) said the government must consider reopening the sector with detailed safety protocol and appoint a committee with representatives from the government, trade bodies and other stakeholders to ensure it.
The Association of Tourism Service Providers in Bengal (ATSPB) had last week demonstrated in front of Victoria Memorial in the city and appealed to the state government for the same “leeway” for the travel sector as given to malls, restaurants, salons and theatre halls .
The demonstrators had carried placards with slogans ‘Save Tourism, Save Lives’ and ‘Save Tourism, Save Bengal’.
Malls, restaurants, theatres and salons have been allowed by the government to operate with 50 per cent capacity and safety measures.
“We appeal to Chief Minister to allow sightseeing everywhere in the state at 50 per cent capacity while observe complete COVID-19 norms. That will allow us to at least survive. Unless sightseeing is permitted, small and medium travel operators will be wiped out. It is impossible for them to find any alternative means of income to support their families — they may even be driven to suicide,” ATSPB president Madan Agarwal said.
TAAB general secretary Amitava Sarkar said it is upto the government to take decision on the leeway but “Something is required to be done as the livelihood of lakhs of people are at stake”.
Over 90 per cent of hotel bookings had been canceled due to the partial lockdown and ban at the tourist spots of the state, they claimed.
The travel organisations have claimed that the sector accounts for about 12 per cent of the state’s GDP of Rs 13 lakh crore.