SKOCH Award Nominee
Category: Tourism – Response to Covid
Sub-Category: subTourism – Response to Covid
Project: Inspirational and Transformational Performance During Covid
Start Date: 2021-02-25
Organisation: Tourism Department, Government of West Bengal
Respondent: Nandini Chakravorty
Level: Excellence Plus
West Bengal Promotes Safe Tourism & Hospitality During Covid
The Tourism Department of the Government of West Bengal has started some activities to help revive the flagging industry in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. These strategies are aimed at not only reinvigorating commercial activity but also cultivating confidence in the sector so that the general public and industry stakeholders may once again begin to engage with it.
The Tourism & Hospitality industry has been badly affected by the lockdown. People have stopped traveling, visiting places, dining out, etc., as part of the lockdowns and safety protocols. Given that the world has never dealt with anything quite like the Covid-19 crisis, there was no blueprint for the Tourism & Hospitality sectors on how to respond to the crisis, how to continue functioning despite it and what practices to adopt and adapt while prioritising both enterprise and safety. Business owners and stakeholders suffered large losses as a result of this situation and it was difficult to keep operations open. Impediments to getting vaccinated also meant greater risks for professionals willing to return to work.
The imposition of the lockdown was followed by large numbers of cancellations in flights and accommodation bookings. Not only did foreign travel plans fall through, but domestic tourists also had to cancel their bookings. Even after the lockdowns were lifted, people were too scared to stay in commercial accommodations for fear of contracting the virus.
The scarcity of essential supplies, safety gear, infrastructural capacity and manpower also made crisis management very difficult. One of the most acute challenges in this time was the shortage of beds for patients.
The Tourism Department set about creating a standardised SOP to address the many challenged posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. This SOP was shared far-and-wide throughout the industry in the state to ensure largescale adoption. The project approach incorporates 4 key elements or strategies as part of its response to Covid-19.
The first is to develop an effective SOP that will facilitate the necessary changes. Designing and standardising industry best practices keeping Covid-19 in mind has meant blending hospitality maxims with health and safety precautions. This has included protocols for sightseeing at tourist spots, best practices for receiving and caring for guests, running tourism-related transport services, etc.
The next was to aid the existing infrastructure by building satellite health facilities. These healthcare facilities were created after an assessment of the existing infrastructure was conducted to classify deficiencies and limitations and see where and how intervention could help. The Department worked with private sector healthcare facilities to allow intake of patients with mild symptoms but with oxygen support supply and medical care facilities and 24*7 ambulance service and hospitalisation if required. A stakeholder meeting in April 2021 helped identify over 600 beds and these were operationalised in 16 guest houses and hotels.
The third was to conduct a largescale vaccination drive to make it safer for Tourism & Hospitality sector professionals to return to work. The state-wide inoculation drive has been crucial to getting the industry up and running again. The Tourism Department formally launched the vaccination drive in June 2021.
And the fourth and arguably most compelling element is the Paryatan Sahayata Prakalpa scheme, which provides financial relief during this crisis by mobilising working capital. The pioneering scheme encourages applying for Working Capital Loans from the banks. The scheme arranges for loan interest subvention up to 50% of the interest in the first year, capped at 4% of the total principal amount. The loan scheme caters to three business categories and corresponding loan amounts: Rs.50,000/- for the Sishu category, Rs.50,000/- to Rs.5,00,001/- for the Kisor category and Rs. 5,00,001/- to Rs. 10,00,000/- for the Yuba category. The tourism industry has received these offers with great enthusiasm.
The Tourism Department adopted 4 key strategies. An SOP to deal with the situation was developed and it has been designed to better industry best practices. The SOP has been adopted throughout the state. The administration worked hard to popularise the Paryatan Sahayata Prakalpa scheme with the residents of the state. Numerous candidates have applied under the Paryatan Sahayata Prakalpa scheme. It can be easily noted that people have begun returning to the industry and enterprise-running once again. Public faith in the Tourism & Hospitality ecosystem is reviving once more. As a result of all these factors, Tourism-related activities have once again begun to pick up in the state.
As many as 634 new beds were arranged in order to support the existing infrastructure. This has added value to both the healthcare and hospitality sectors.
The vaccination drive has been instrumental to both inspiring confidence and reviving the industry. People feel safer returning to the Tourism & Hospitality sector. 1.84 Lakh people received their vaccinations during the initial phase of the drive. The campaign intends to vaccinate as many as 6 Lakh people during its course.
The pandemic and lockdowns created many challenges both directly and indirectly. Even industries that were able to find workarounds and alternatives to the challenges had to struggle with limited manpower. Human resource was badly affected during the pandemic and not easily available, which made it difficult to get the project off the ground.
The loan scheme allows an opportunity to mobile working capital, which has been instrumental to keeping the industry operational despite the heavy economic damages suffered as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
An online Paryatan Sahayata Prakalpa variant has also been launched.
The Paryatan Sahayata Prakalpa is going to continue till 31.03. 2022. The vaccination effort will go on in accordance with the pandemic scenario and future developments.
The project is a strong example of how determination and adaptability and the spirit of resilience can help individuals and industries overcome just about any challenge.
For more information, please contact:
Nandini Chakravorty at email@example.com
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