Published on : Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Paharganj in Delhi witnessed a steady stream of foreign tourists before the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March. “But in the past seven months, I have not seen a single foreigner in the market which once teemed with tourists from all over the world at any hour of the day. Our sales are almost down to zero,” said a shop owner.
The pandemic has almost wiped out tourism in Delhi. Paharganj, which was once a lively, flourishing market with its entire economy depending on foreign tourists, is a microcosm of the devastation brought about by the ongoing corona virus crisis in the capital’s tourism sector. The popular city tours conducted by Delhi Tourism now have no takers. Travel and tour operators in the city are complaining about loss of lakhs of jobs with no hopes of their return in the near future.
This is quite a sad twist for the tourism industry in Delhi, a city ranking 11th in the list of ‘Top 100 city destinations’ globally by Euromonitor International. Delhi was also among India’s top four destinations with about 29 lakh foreign tourists arriving in the city in 2019, according to India Tourism statistics.
In spite of peak travel season, Paharganj wears a deserted look. “Eighty per cent of our customers were foreign tourists, most of them from countries such as the US, the UK, Israel, Russia, Korea and Japan. Unlike other markets, which are thriving ever since the lockdown was lifted, shop keepers here have no business at all, as 80 per cent of the business in the market depended on foreign tourists. With restrictions on tourist visas continuing, our market is the biggest victim of the pandemic,” said Subhash Vij, the president of the Paharganj Market Association.
With more than 800 hotels, Paharganj is also Delhi’s biggest hotel hub—and half of them are closed now. “A large number of guests of these hotels were foreign tourists, with as many 100 hotels completely dependent on them,” said Ajay Kumar Agarwal, President Paharganj Hotel Mahasangh. “Quite a significant number of tourists who visited Delhi lived in Paharganj’s budget hotels,” he said.