India’s Mumbai tour guides cross fingers for post-pandemic reopening – Xinhua
A photo made available on September 26, 2016 shows a general view of India Gate, one of the most famous tourist spots in Mumbai, India, Sept. 12, 2016. (Xinhua/EPA)
Mulay, a tourist guide in Mumbai, believes that India’s financial capital, which ranks as the 14th most visited city in the world with its many historical, architectural and natural sites and monuments, has failed to live up to its potential touristic.
MUMBAI, March 11 (Xinhua) — Tour guides in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, are eagerly awaiting the influx of tourists when the city is expected to reopen to normal functioning in a post-pandemic era.
For Shailesh Mulay, a Mumbai tour guide for more than two decades, the inbound tourism industry has seen a tiny glimmer of hope, with some business travelers opting for short sightseeing trips to Mumbai since November.
“However, inbound leisure travelers have yet to be seen,” Mulay said.
Mumbai has eased COVID-19 restrictions since February, with mask-wearing and social distancing still required. On February 1, the city allowed beaches, gardens and parks to remain open on the normal schedule before the onset of COVID-19, while restrictions such as nighttime curfews were also lifted.
The city with a population of 1.8 billion has now reported just over 1,000 active patients with a 98% recovery rate, with just 721 of 36,201 COVID care center beds occupied, the data shows. official.
During the time when COVID-19 broke out in the country, inbound tourism was completely paralyzed.
Several travel agencies and tour operators have had to downsize their workforces and, under extreme conditions, have also had to shut down due to the long absence of workflow, Mulay said.
India’s tourist season largely runs from October to March, and some full-time tour guides have gone two consecutive years out of work.
“Some have sold their work premises, vehicles and other assets. Many unpaid bills from licensed independent guides remain unpaid. Tourism has become the industry with the highest percentage of financial and job losses,” Mulay said.
Although there was a slight recovery in the number of domestic tourists in 2021 with the easing of restrictions, it was insignificant from a currency perspective.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, India received 17.9 million inbound foreign tourists in 2019, generating around US$28 billion in foreign exchange, according to government data. This figure has fallen to around $7 billion in 2020.
The travel pattern of inbound foreign travelers has changed amid uncertainty in the post-COVID scenario.
“It has always been observed that foreign leisure travelers traveling after retirement tend to choose longer trips and comfortable stays because they can save more time and money. In some cases, they choose to travel with groups for the good of the co-traveler company or to save costs,” Mulay said.
“For many of us there is no other source of income and we have gone through a very long period of life without a job. Some of us have managed to make minor replacements to make ends meet. Many of us have yet to receive our previous due payments,” Mulay said.
A Japanese musician plays the violin for his personal music video in front of the illuminated Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, one of the most famous tourist spots in Mumbai, India, Sept. 25, 2016. (Xinhua/EPA)
In a country where 58% of foreign travelers come for tourism, Mumbai received the second highest number of foreign tourists after Delhi.
Mulay said the city, which ranked 14th among the most visited cities in the world with its many historical, architectural and natural sites and monuments, has failed to live up to its tourism potential.
“Most business travelers come to Mumbai for work and any tourist activity is just an option for them,” Mulay said.
Since last year, the Indian government has been issuing tourist visas to fully vaccinated people. It had also promoted enticing activities, deals and offers with informative videos to all connected stakeholders.
However, Mulay said that until international flight operations return to normal and other COVID-related visa restrictions for different countries are lifted, leisure travel to India’s financial capital will not will not flower as expected.■