Protect blue collar jobs, urges aviation and tourism industry stakeholders

No.PR-98 May 23, 2020 New Delhi Protect blue collar jobs, urges aviation and tourism industry stakeholders New Delhi 22.05.2020: There is no denying that the aviation, tourism and hospitality industries have been hit the hardest because of the ongoing pandemic Covid 19. Aviation and Tourism combined contribute 10% of India’s GDP and employs almost 10+ crore people. With a complete grounding of flights and resulting drying up of revenue, the companies can only stay afloat for a limited time by eating into their reserves. Between all this, the recently announced relief package by the Government has no provisions specifically for them. This has caused huge disappointments to all the stakeholders and millions of employees of these sectors. Delhi based travel conglomerate Bird Group in association with PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry held the second webinar amongst a series on ‘Saving Airlines & Allied Industries – Saving Jobs’. During the webinar where 650+ attendees joined in, key measures that have been taken by the governments worldwide to support and sustain aviation and tourism industries were discussed. Eminent leaders from the industry brainstormed on ways and means by which the industry can continue to remain viable and once again bring the attention of the government to these pertinent questions. The session was moderated by Mr. Vikram Chandra, Former CEO, NDTV & Founder, Editorji Technologies. Esteemed panelists of the webinar were Dr. Shefali Juneja, India’s Representative, ICAO; Mr. Arun Mishra, Regional Director, Asia and Pacific, ICAO; Mr. Suman Billa, Director, United Nations World Tourism Organisation; Mr. Murali Ramachandran, President, Ground Handler’s Association; Mr. K Narayan Rao, Group Deputy Managing Director, GMR Group; and Dr. Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group. The panel deliberated upon the expectations submitted earlier to the government, which could not find a place in the set of measures announced by the government. Laying stress on immediate need to tackle the situation during the ongoing crisis, Ms. Radha Bhatia, Chairperson – Tourism Committee, PHDCCI & Chairperson, Bird Group, said, “With the commencement of domestic flights from 25th May, there will be some resumption of activity in Aviation, Tourism and all the allied sectors. In order to learn from the best practices being followed around the world for ensuring safety of passengers and staff, Bird Group Leadership Initiative and Tourism Committee of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted a webinar with leading experts from International Civil Aviation Organisation, UN World Tourism Organisation and Indian airports as well as ground handlers. Together the geographical reach of the panelits is from Canada to Europe in the West and Asia-Pacific in the East. We hope that the collective wisdom that emerged from the discussion will help us in restoring the confidence of the passengers and customers, thereby reviving the airlines and allied industries, which together employ over 10 Cr people in India directly – with an equally large number indirectly dependent on it.” Mr. K Narayan Rao, Group Deputy Managing Director, GMR Group, called for immediate SOPs to subsidize airport expenses in order to keep the highly capital intensive operations of airport afloat amid the current economic meltdown. GMR operates New Delhi's IGI and Hyderabad International Airport in India. Mr. Rao also urged the government to ensure the blue collar workers as well as the migrant labour are not rendered unemployment that fills more than half of the workforce employed by airlines, airports and other aviation ancillary services. Mr. Murali Ramachandran, President, Ground Handler’s Association, expressed his concern during the webinar that being a labour intensive and high fixed expenses loaded sector, the Ground Handling industry has been crippled with the situation. The Government must definitely review the regulatory mindset and environment given the current situation. No revenue, no fiscal support and a highly regulated environment is a devastating cocktail for any industry. Mr. Suman Billa, Director, UNWTO, commented that the the global tourist flow was contracted during the SARS epidemic in 2004 by 0.4%, the economic slowdown in 2008 by 4% and now there is a possibility of a 58 to 78% contraction. This is clearly a huge challenge for the businesses to overcome. The Governments are equally challenged in the absence of revenue flows and limitations on deficit financing. Most of the stimulus packages across the world are sector agnostic. The industry should carefully assess the existing provisions and propose the changes that are specifically required for the tourism sector. Calibrated opening of the aviation sector, strict alignment of standard operating procedures with the resumption of airline services, key SOPs to infuse life into ground handling services, which employs a large chunk of the industry are some of the major steps discussed by aviation industry leaders here on Friday. Ends. Media Division PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry