The Taste with Vir: Covid is a crisis not Armageddon
I am always a little intrigued by the casual ease with which politicians discuss the fate of the hospitality industry. When the industry does pop up in their consciousness it is nearly always in the context of safety. This is a valid concern (and more about that later) but it’s strange that hospitality is rarely discussed in terms of the jobs that are at stake or the potential damage to the economy.
It is symptomatic of this attitude that while Civil Aviation gets bright ministers (Jayant Sinha and Hardeep Puri are two recent examples), Tourism is usually left to the dullards (with a few notable exceptions like KJ Alphons in the last government). Somehow, we think the Tourism Ministry doesn’t really matter.
But, of course it does.
By some estimates, the hospitality sector accounts for around 10 per cent of our GDP. That’s travel (including airlines) restaurants, tourism, hotels, etc.
That estimate is based on a figure of ten million tourist arrivals a year. It sounds like a lot but Spain has 85 million arrivals a year. Even Singapore (which is just one city) gets 19.1 million visitors. The city of Bangkok got 22.7 million visitors last year.
So ten million tourist is peanuts. And yet that accounts for ten per cent of our GDP.
Obviously, if the city of Bangkok can get 22.7 million tourists to our 10 million, there is massive scope to grow. And while we have been fortunate to have outstanding civil servants who understand this (Amitabh Kant is the obvious example), the political establishment really could not care less.