Amidst the lockdown, we frequently get inquiries on call, and on our Facebook and Instagram page about the latest updates on the opening of travel and trekking, the things which we ourselves are in a wait and watch situation and can update once the government guidelines are released.
Since country-wide lockdown is imposed, all the travel and tourism activities have completely come to a halt. Given the devastating effect of COVID-19 in other parts of the world, we had stopped our trekking activities, a week earlier before the nation-wide lockdown was imposed.
Our services include trekking activities in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand and Himachal. The trekking or in overall the tourism industry is a major source of revenue, as jobs for the local people and revenue for the govt as taxes.
Now with no tourism, the taxi drivers have their cabs parked aside and all the hotels are empty. The Badrinath Dham and Kedarnath Dham are visited by thousands of people at this time of the year, and it's a once in a year thing. The Dhams open in the summer season and remain closed for the rest of the year. And now no visitors visiting, the taxi drivers and the hotel owners are left empty-handed.
The Hill-stations of Uttarakhand and Himachal also used to be a very popular choice to visit as the weather is quite pleasant in comparison with the plains. But again it’s a huge economic loss.
The trekking industry is equally hit. It’s time for summer treks to open as the snow starts to melt and the mesmerising treks like Rupin Pass, Hampta Pass, Bhrigu Lake, Har-ki-dun to name a few, are open. The trekking industry is a huge source of employment to the villagers which employs a lot of people as cooks, guides, helpers, and hires their mules. Local Taxi also is an important part of the chain. And due to the outbreak, everyone will be sitting idle.
The major population of the hills is directly or indirectly benefited by the tourism sector. So, it’s not only an economic loss but this pandemic has it’s social consequences too.
As of now, we are not aware of how long this pandemic or say this virus will be staying with us. And for how long the people employed on tourism will be able to survive on their savings, the young ones might switch to other sectors to earn their livelihood but the elder ones, it’s not going to be very easy for them to take another job.
This is affecting everyone equally, be it the self-employed or the organisations. And effecting the govt equally as a major portion of taxes in the hills is via Tourism activities only.
The first nationwide lockdown was imposed on 24th March, and since then we have reached lockdown 4.0 with a lot of relaxations in the lockdown. But still the virus is spreading like wildfire, the only thing that has changed in these days is that we have made our hospitals more competent to take care of mild cases and reduce the death-rate to a little extent.
Still, social distancing and hygiene remain the key, until no drug is available.
What we are assuming, if the tourist activities start any soon, things are not going to be the same. People will be preferring to maintain social distance and avoid getting in touch with strangers. Quite unimaginable, like many people, I personally came across travelling with the reason to meet new people.