Introduction to the Destination and its Tourism Industry
Uttarakhand-India, nestled in the foothills of the majestic Himalayas, is a land of snow-capped mountains, winding rivers, revered temples, quaint villages, and vibrant culture. With its breathtaking natural beauty and a diversity of tourist attractions, Uttarakhand has become a much sought-after tourist destination (Pal et al., 2021). From spirituality, yoga retreats, temple hopping, and adventure activities to nightlife, Uttarakhand has something to offer to everyone.
Uttarakhand has a plethora of tourist attractions for the visitors. It is home to the world-famous Char Dham pilgrimage sites of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. The pilgrimage sites are located in the Garhwal region of the state. Other tourist destinations in Uttarakhand include Lakshman Jhula, Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, Beetles Ashram, Gita Bhawan and Shivpuri for rafting (Pandey, 2020). Tourists can also visit the Corbett National Park, Valley of Flowers and the Kempty Falls. Tourism in Uttarakhand has been a huge contributor to the State Gross Domestic Product and employs 2% of the population. In 2019, Uttarakhand welcomed nearly 7.6 million tourists, and the state government had implemented a number of initiatives to promote responsible and sustainable tourism.
Impact of COVID-19 on the Destination
The first case of the novel Coronavirus was reported in India on January 30 2020. Since then, the number of cases has been escalating rapidly across the country. Uttarakhand ranks 17th of the 36 states in India in severity of COVID-19. The spread of the virus in the state has had a severe impact on the economic, social and health aspects of the state.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the economy of Uttarakhand. The state’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and hospitality industry. According to the Economic Survey of Uttarakhand by Resource Watch (2022), the tourism sector contributes 4.4% to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). The pandemic drastically affected the tourism industry in the state due to the lockdown measures. Hotels, restaurants, eateries, and other tourism-related activities were severely impacted due to the restrictions imposed. This led to a substantial loss of revenue and jobs in the sector. Moreover, the decline in the arrival of pilgrims and tourists to the state also had a major impact on the economy.
The state of Uttarakhand has been significantly affected by the pandemic in terms of health. The state has a limited number of healthcare facilities which were overwhelmed by the sudden surge in cases. This led to an increase in the number of deaths due to COVID-19. As of September 30 2022, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state was 104107, with 333 deaths (Nanda, 2023). The number of recovered cases was 99926 and 3772 people had migrated out of the state (Nanda, 2023).
The lockdown measures imposed by the government to contain the spread of the virus had a major impact on the social life of Uttarakhand. Public functions, entertainment, educational, cultural activities, and political rallies were not allowed until January 16 2022. Schools, Anganwadi centers, and other educational institutions were closed till January 16 2022. Gyms, shopping malls, cinema halls, spa salons, amusement parks, and theater auditoriums were allowed to open with only 50% capacity. The curfew in the state was from 10 pm to 6 am and markets were open from 6 am to night.
COVID–19 Management Actions Taken
On March 21 2020, the Uttarakhand government announced the entry of all tourists, both domestic and international, into the state was banned until further notice (Nanda, 2023). At the same time, the government advised tourists already in the state to adhere to the advisories and guidelines issued by the government. In addition, the government encouraged people to report any emergencies or health-related issues to the nearest hospitals and follow quarantine regimes as applicable.
The Uttarakhand government enforced a lockdown in the state on March 24, 2020 as directed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to control the spread of the virus (Nanda, 2023). The lockdown mandated the closure of all non-essential services, such as schools, colleges, malls, restaurants, and places of worship. It also restricted the movement of people within the state, with only essential services such as medical and grocery stores being allowed to remain open. As part of the lockdown, all shops related to essential commodities were allowed to open from 7 am to 10 am. After 10 am, no movement was allowed on the roads.
The Uttarakhand government implemented several testing and quarantine protocols to contain the spread of the virus. The government set up numerous testing facilities across the state and also provided free testing for vulnerable populations. It also established quarantine centers in all districts to provide medical care and facilities for those who were infected with the virus.
Further measures taken by the state government include the launch of a mobile application, ‘Uttarakhand Corona Sahayata’. This application was created to provide information to the public about the state’s response to the pandemic, as well as to facilitate the delivery of essential services. The government also launched a special helpline, 104, to provide medical advice and assistance to people in need.
As of June 2021, the number of COVID-19 cases in the state had dropped significantly. The Uttarakhand government had eased most of the restrictions that were imposed due to the pandemic. Places of worship and other public gathering places were allowed to reopen, while some of the lockdown protocols were relaxed. The government also started administering the COVID-19 vaccine to its citizens, in order to ensure their safety and protection.
Consequences of Management Actions for the Tourism Industry
The management actions taken by the Uttarakhand state government following the pandemic had a significant impact on the tourism industry. The closure of all tourist spots and entertainment centres, along with the ban on interstate travel and the imposition of restrictions on public gatherings, resulted in a steep decline in the number of tourists visiting the state.
The announcement of a ‘work from home’ policy by the government further contributed to the decline in tourist numbers as people preferred to stay at home rather than taking a vacation. The restrictions imposed on visitors, such as the mandatory use of face masks and social distancing, also served as a disincentive for tourists.
The tourism industry in Uttarakhand suffered a severe setback due to the management actions taken by the government following the pandemic. The decline in tourist numbers led to a decrease in revenue for the tourism industry, as well as a loss of jobs for many people employed in the sector. Furthermore, the closure of tourist spots and entertainment centres had a negative impact on the local economy, as many businesses dependent on tourism were adversely affected.
COVID Recovery Plan for the Destination
The first step of the recovery plan was to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the destination. A thorough analysis of the financial and social implications revealed that the tourism industry had been severely affected due to the pandemic. To address this, the Uttarakhand government implemented several measures, such as providing financial relief to the affected businesses, providing free medical care for the affected individuals, and providing free accommodation and transport to those who have been affected (Nandan et al., 2021).
The second step of the recovery plan was to identify the opportunities for growth in the tourism industry. To this end, the government launched an initiative to promote domestic tourism, encouraging local residents to explore the beauty of Uttarakhand (Khan et al., 2022). Additionally, the government has invested in digital marketing and advertising campaigns to attract tourists from other parts of the country and abroad.
The next step of the recovery plan was to focus on improving the infrastructure of the destination. The government provided incentives to hoteliers and hospitality businesses to upgrade their facilities and services, and also invested in the development of new tourist attractions. Additionally, the government initiated various projects to improve the transportation network and facilitate the movement of tourists between different destinations. The government also organized various cultural festivals and events that highlighted the unique culture of Uttarakhand. Additionally, the government launched a program to promote local handicrafts, as well as traditional art and music.
The final step of the recovery plan was to ensure the safety and security of the tourists. To this end, the government implemented strict safety protocols, such as enforcing the wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing, and encouraging the use of online payment platforms. Additionally, the government launched an initiative to train local service providers in the tourism industry to ensure that they are fully equipped to cater to the needs of the tourists.
The recovery plan for Uttarakhand has been successful in helping the destination to regain its economic prosperity and restore its reputation as a tourist destination. The measures taken by the government provided much-needed relief to the affected businesses, provided opportunities for growth, improved infrastructure and safety protocols, and promoted the local culture and traditions of the destination. As a result, the number of tourists visiting Uttarakhand has steadily increased, and the destination is well on its way to becoming one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in India.
The impacts of COVID-19 on the tourism industry of Uttarakhand have been significant. The government has taken action to manage the situation, but these actions have had consequences on the industry and its workers. A recovery plan needs to be developed for the tourism industry to get back on track and ensure its long-term viability. My suggestion for a COVID recovery plan for Uttarakhand’s tourism industry is to focus on strategies that emphasize sustainability, such as investing in green infrastructure, promoting green tourism and ecotourism, and investing in local communities. Additionally, government initiatives should focus on providing support to local businesses, as well as developing a comprehensive marketing strategy to promote tourism in the region. With such measures in place, Uttarakhand’s tourism industry can recover from the devastation of the pandemic and continue to drive economic growth.
Khan, Z., Ali, S. A., Mohsin, M., Parvin, F., Shamim, S. K., & Ahmad, A. (2022). A district-level vulnerability assessment of the following COVID-19 variant (Omicron BA. 2) in Uttarakhand using quantitative SWOT analysis. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 1–30.
Nanda. (2023, March 18). Uttarakhand Corona Stats – Today’s Uttarakhand Covid Cases with Latest Corona News. Www.euttaranchal.com. https://www.euttaranchal.com/tourism/coronavirus-uttarakhand-updates.php
Nandan, A., Siddiqui, N. A., Singh, C., Aeri, A., Gwenzi, W., Ighalo, J. O., … & Rangabhashiyam, S. (2021). COVID-19 pandemic in Uttarakhand, India: Environmental recovery or degradation? Journal of environmental chemical engineering, 9(6), 106595.
Pal, A., Pal, B., & Rawat, M. S. S. Potential of Ecotourism in Dehradun District, Uttarakhand. ESSENCE-International Journal for Environmental Rehabilitation and Conservation, 1.
Pandey, A. P., & Pandey, M. (2020). Potentials and problems of adventure tourism a study of Rishikesh. ACADEMICIA: An International Multidisciplinary Research Journal, 7(3), 31-38.
Resource Watch. (2022). Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness. Prepdata.org. https://prepdata.org/dashboards/uttarakhand-tourism