“I didn’t get any passengers today. This has happened for the first time in nine years”

Coronavirus, which emerged from China's Wuhan city, has directly impacted the lives and livelihoods of millions of common people associated with the tourism industry in India

Kushal Mishra
| Updated: Last updated on March 19th, 2020,

“My car is parked in the taxi stand since morning. I could not find a single passenger until night. I have been driving for nine years, but for the first time, I didn’t get a single passenger. This is happening for the first time,” said Ajit Singh, 36, while waiting for passengers in his taxi at the Chaudhary Charan Singh international airport in Lucknow.

Afghan Khan, 51, and Jaskaran Singh, 42, who are taxi drivers in the city said that their business has been hit due to the fear of Coronavirus. Many taxi drivers like Ajit, Afghan and Jaskaran, depend upon the daily earning for their bread and butter.

Coronavirus, which emerged from China’s Wuhan city, has directly impacted the lives and livelihoods of millions of common people associated with the tourism industry in India. In India, there have been 75 cases of Coronavirus so far (until March 13). The tourism sector has received a big jolt due to Coronavirus. In view of the growing incidences of corona in India, the central government has cancelled visas of all foreigners till April 15.

Ajit lives in rented accommodation with his wife and a child at Khargapur in Gomti Nagar in Lucknow. He barely earns Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 a day.

“In two days, I could only get one passenger. This earned me Rs 500. I spent Rs 250 for diesel. We expected better earnings during Holi, but this time there were hardly any passengers. It has become difficult for us to even meet the daily expense of the taxi,” said Ajit.

Vinod Soni, 40, who works as a taxi driver in Lucknow, said: “My family is afraid, there is a fear of corona, so I cover my mouth with a handkerchief all the time. After all, I have to run a household.”

Many taxi drivers informed us that they are not getting many passengers, which is affecting their livelihood

The Ministry of Tourism has not given any official data on the damage caused to the tourism industry by Coronavirus so far. But according to the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), the country’s tourism industry has suffered losses worth $500 million (Rs 37.04 billion) by February.

Pranab Sarkar, who is the chairman of IATO, informed us that more than 67 per cent of the tourists have cancelled their plans within the first week of March. “People are not ready to take a flight because they are scared of Coronavirus. They do not want to take any risk. The country’s tourism industry has, so far, suffered losses worth 500 million dollars,” said Pranab.

The Taj Mahal in Agra, which is the hub of tourism in the country, has also been affected due to the Coronavirus. This is also affecting the livelihood options for the commoners associated with tourism in the city.

Amid the rising fear of Coronavirus, Naveen Jain, who is the national president of the All India Mayoral Council and Agra Mayor, has demanded the Union Tourism minister to close all archaeological and historical heritage sites of the country by the third week of March.

Sunny Manglik, who works with Akriti Tours and Travels in Agra, said: “More than 70 per cent of the tourists have cancelled bookings and those who are coming are also in a dilemma. Because of the mayor’s appeal, I have been constantly receiving inquiries whether the Taj has been shut too. We are suffering losses and are left with little business.”

Anil Sengar, who is working as a tourist guide at the Taj Mahal, explained: “Such is the situation that the guides who would earn Rs 500 are ready to take as less as Rs 200. We used to get a large number of tourists until March, but since the incoming from 12 countries has already been restricted in India, this time we are getting very few tourists.”

The tourist places in Delhi, which used to be a buzz for foreign tourists is also still. Harjit Singh, who works with the 24*7 Travels Company in New Delhi, said: “Our business is totally ruined, firstly because of riots in Delhi and now due to the fear of Coronavirus. The bookings slated for March-April are also being cancelled by our customers due to Corona. We have had more than 75 bookings cancelled in the past 15 days. We are also bound to give salary to our employees, but there are hardly any earnings.”

The travel agencies say that the number of foreigners visiting tourist sites in the country have reduced due to Coronavirus

The situation in Madya Pradesh is no different. Rajendra Bajaj, who works with Affordable Tours and Travels in Bhopal, informed us that the situation there is grave. “As for now, people are cancelling booking instead of making new bookings. This has been going on for about the past 15 days. There are many other travel agencies whose bookings have been cancelled.”

Due to the growing threat of Coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Coronavirus as a pandemic and informed that the spread of the disease has reached an alarming scale. So far, Coronavirus has gained a firm foothold in 114 countries across the world.

The livelihood of lakhs of people associated with the hotels has also been affected due to the booking cancellations by tourists. Hotels, travel agents, taxi drivers, hotel staff, shops and showrooms, including guides, which are largely dependent on tourism for their earnings, are all in trouble. Prior bookings are also being cancelled by the tourists in hotels.

In Bodh Gaya, Bihar, this is the time when the city welcomes a large number of tourists from South East Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. But for the first time, there are hardly any visitors.

Amit Roy, who works with the Yatri Vihar Hotel in Bodh Gaya in Bihar, said: “Bodh Gaya is a place where people come to visit for six months in a year. This period wrapped up two months before because of Coronavirus. There are many for whom tourism within these months is the only source of livelihood. They have suffered huge losses.”

“There are no foreign tourists and the number of domestic tourists has also reduced. All hotels and travel agencies in Bodh Gaya have suffered a loss of at least 100 crores,” added Amit.

Niharika, who works with Hotel Manoranjan at Charbagh in Lucknow, which is about 563 kms from Bodh Gaya, said: “We are getting tourists from across the country but we are not getting any foreign tourists. In February itself, a family from China came to our hotel for three days but seeing the crowd, they kept themselves locked up in their rooms. They were wearing masks all the time. They carried sanitizers with themselves all the time. They didn’t want to take any risk at all.”

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) in its analysis on March 6 found that the Coronavirus will damage the developing countries in many respects. It is likely to cause a loss worth 77 to 347 billion dollars to the global economy. The ADB told that the extent of the damage to the economy would depend on the diffusion of the Coronavirus.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3