RT Local: Hear from a tourist guide at Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar, Gujarat
RT Local: Hear from a tourist guide at Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar, Gujarat

The impact of Covid-19 on individuals & communities working in tourism

19 August 2020 The Covid-19 pandemic and its domino effect of closed borders, cancelled flights, shuttered hotels and restaurants, and the complete stop of travel and tourism has severely impacted everyone dependent on this industry, one of the top job creators and income generators. In many parts of our country, individuals engaged in agriculture and in the arts and crafts sector, and many micro-entrepreneurs have bolstered their income by catering to travellers. Fishermen in Goa take tourists out to see dolphins, farmers in Himachal Pradesh have turned part of their homes into homestays, and artisans in Rajasthan conduct textile and crafts workshops. None of this is happening now. How has this complete stop in travel affected these individuals? 

To find out, we bring to you RT Local - a series of conversations with those who work at the grassroots of travel and showcase their region and culture to travellers. Hear from them how they have been affected and what they think travel will look like post-Covid.

Once upon a time the grasslands of Velavadar was the private preserve of the Maharaja of Bhavnagar where he used to hunt blackbucks with his hunting cheetahs. Today it is tiny protected sanctuary - the Bhavnagar National Park covers just 34 sq km. 

The endangered blackbuck is the star of this national park. The blackbuck once roamed all over the subcontinent but are today mostly concentrated in Gujarat. Strong conservation efforts have increased the population of the blackbuck here from 200 in the late 1960s to over 3,000 at present. It is not just the blackbuck that has found sanctuary here. The national park is home to nilgai, jackal, wolf, jungle cat, and fox. 

Birders too can rejoice here as the national park is home to pelicans, flamingos, white and painted storks, three kinds of cranes, Stolizca’s Bushchat, and the Lesser Florican.

The park has also provided employment opportunities for locals. One such is Vishal Velavadar. He works as a tourist guide here and used to earn over Rs 15,000 a month. This income substantially helped provide for his family that includes his brother's widow and her two daughters, apart from Vishal's parents.

With Covid-19 pandemic disrupting travel and tourism, Vishal, like others employed in the tourism industry, has been left without an income. Here what he has to say: