World Tourism Day 2020: Delhiites, get back to exploring the heart of the city

Are you too missing packing your bags and going for a holiday? Well, the pandemic has surely turned the travel and tourism industry upside down. Many are grappling with the aftermath of the lockdown, and trying their best to let Unlock bring in some business for them. On World Tourism Day, September 27, we speak to those people in Delhi-NCR whose livelihood has been impacted the most, and how they aim to bounce back.

“Our wholesale business is gone, online is the only route,” says Saurabh Monga, the third-generation from his family who has been running Monga Handicrafts Corner in Janpath. Last six months have been one of the toughest periods for their family, like most others in the country. “We used to see foreigners frequent our small shop so often. Now we just open the shop and sit idle all day. There are no sales, or customers,” says Monga, adding, “We had to pay the standard 10% hike in rent inspite of no business during the lockdown. We had to even fire some workers due to lack of funds… Though there are limitations, retail and online sales are the sources of income we will have to eventually depend on. And interstate tourism surely drive our growth.”

Can tales from the past help people heal in tough times like these? “Absolutely,” says Asif Khan Dehlvi, founder, Delhi Karavan that organises heritage tour walks. Walk conductors like Dehlvi have been feeling the financial pinch in absence of any business. Busy cooking and tending to his parrots, Dehlvi says, “I didn’t conduct heritage walks online because it felt like we are giving up any hope of things getting normal. After monuments reopened, I started getting requests for walks… since August. But the situation wasn’t conducive. Now, I feel people need fresh air, and stories!”

All set to bounce back to the scene in the month of October, Dehlvi adds, “I plan to regroup with my team and start taking socially distanced tours in open areas like Mehrauli Archaeological Park, and Sanjay Van.”

Vishal Bhaskar, a Delhi-based tourist guide, says, “Business would have been at its peak in these months, had it not been for Covid-19. Places like the Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb have now started seeing people return to their fold, but many are scared of hiring us because they are unsure of our health and safety. Well, had we been unwell, why would we be at work?”

“I used to be on assignments for nine months a year, but since last six months I’ve been at home,” says Bhaskar, adding, “Tour guides across the Capital have taken up safety measures. Socially distanced tours can be undertaken, and we are ensuring all safety measures even in buses run by tour operators such as regular sanitisation, provision of sealed water bottles, sanitisers and wet wipes on seats, etc. Our primary income was from international tourists, but for that to resume we have little hope this year. So locals must get to exploring the city,” Bhaskar concludes.

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