As tourist destinations in India reopen to all travelers, restaurants are happy to see the increased footfall after a long pause. While you do not require a RT-PCR while travelling to Himachal Pradesh, those entering Uttarakhand are still needed to carry a Covid-negative certificate. This, coupled with the fact that most shops are closed due to the ongoing Covid curfew in the state, has led tourists to rush to Himachal while Uttarakhand has received a lukewarm footfall, the state’s restaurateurs have alleged.
Though the restaurant owners are excited to see more people walking through their doors, many are overwhelmed due to staffing limitations struggling to find workers in preparation for an influx in tourism. After the second wave caused mass layoffs for restaurant employees, many people have not returned to jobs yet.
“I’m just so overwhelmed with everything. We don’t have enough help, we want to expand our hours, but we just can’t without more workers. My staff is running around without breaks” Ved, Owner of Peace Cafe in Dharamshala said.
Business at such cafes and restaurants has been getting busier as more tourists arriving at the hill station and more locals feel comfortable eating out again. The restaurant is currently, seating at half capacity.
However, Sanjay Sood, the president of the Shimla Hotel and Restaurateurs Association, who is also the owner of Devicos bar and restaurant informed that workers in most places like his were not laid off and taken care of during pandemic and so they are all at work now supporting the ownerships and managements.
“As Governments have not really helped the industry. To survive, this tourist footfall has helped restaurants to revive though not completely as lots of burdens still lie with us like salaries, rents, electricity, water etc,” Sood further stated.
According to him, the challenge today is in most hill stations hawkers and roadside unorganized food joints have cropped up and they are not collecting taxes or GST which is a loss to the govt, and hurting the business of the organised restaurant sector.
Uttarakhand tourism industry has also started getting financial strength from the tourists coming from different states especially due to the business done on Saturday-Sunday. The businessmen associated with the tourism industry are finally recovering from the losses.
President of Hotel and Restaurant Association Nainital, Dinesh Shah said, “Tourism is a source of employment and livelihood for lakhs of people. Businessmen related to tourism have got economic benefits due to good business.”
However, only tourists with negative RTPCR reports and registration in Smart City Portal along with hotel booking details are being allowed to enter. Apart from this, unnecessary crowding at tourist places is being controlled by the officials. Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government also made it clear that the government is continuously committed to maintaining a balance between revival and health security. Due to the possibility of a third wave of the corona, instructions have been given by Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB) to hotel and restaurant owners to strictly follow the Corona guidelines at tourist places.
At Corbett in Uttarakhand, the surge in national park visitors has caused Cafe Hoho to see that there is untapped potential for the restaurant industry in the Corbett region. Being right off the highway, and near to Nainital, many small restaurant owners in Corbett feels that the area need more food business happening. “Visitors enjoy coming to the national park, especially after the pandemic, demand for destinations like these are rising and locals too would benefit from more food options in town,” one of the restaurant owners mentioned.
In other tourist destinations like Goa, the government recently issued fresh guidelines regarding Covid-induced restrictions in the state. The new order has relaxed restrictions on bars and restaurants, as they are now allowed to open with 50 per cent capacity between 7 am and 9 pm. As compared to tourist destinations in the North, Goa is still witnessing a worrying number of Covid cases. However, tourists are planning their trips to Goa with negative reports.
In down south, the situation is still grim and restaurants are still struggling. The tourist destinations in the South are not witnessing footfall with an increased number of cases. Owners are anticipating that the recovery can only happen once the travel bounces back completely.