Port Blair, Jan 19: Various tourism associations of Andaman & Nicobar Islands have recently met to discuss the problems that have arisen after the District Administration came out with Order No. 30, closing all tourist spots in the islands. The associations include Andaman Island Scuba Diving Association, Havelock Boat Operator Association, Island Marine Life Boat Association, Baratang Tourist Fiber Boat Owners Association and Havelock Paryatak Seva Sangh. The meeting decided to brief the Chief Secretary, A&N Administration about the circumstances that have arisen after the Order was issued and to request the CS regarding considering re-considering the Order in the interest of tourism stakeholders.

The petitioners mentioned that tourism is the backbone of our Island's economy. Thousands of families residing in the Islands are completely dependent on tourism for their income and livelihood. If tourism activities are completely closed down, all such families will immensely suffer financial hardship and irreparable loss.

A large number of Island's residents are employed in the tourism sector and they have spent their hard earned money for taking up training and skills development to cater to the tourism industry. They have invested their time, energy and efforts to get their skills certification in various tourism activities such as Snorkelling, Local Guides, Local Tracking Guides, Local Tour Operators, Cab Drivers, Auto Drivers, Scuba Divers, Boat Captain & Crew and other such activities, which serve the tourists who visit the Islands. It must be appreciated that they attend their jobs with a sense of duty and responsibility and sometimes risk their lives to ensure a joyful and safe trip for the tourists.

When tourism activities are completely closed down by the A & N Administration, such skilled workers are forced to return to their hometowns in remote villages in the interiors of the Islands. Such workers are also compelled to search for alternate sources of income to eke out a living, despite having invested heavily for training themselves for serving the tourism industry.

The fact is that a sudden ban on all tourism activities has demotivated such skilled workers and instilled a sense of insecurity in working for the tourism sector. Even after the ban is lifted, many workers would be unwilling to return to their actual jobs, due to the uncertainty and instability of the tourism industry. Consequently, it would be impossible to train more skilled workers in a short span of time, and unskilled workers cannot be engaged for such risky activities, which could endanger their own lives and also the lives of tourists.

After the second Lockdown, almost 50% of the skilled workers refused to resume their employment, and those who joined back, did so with the hope that if the Administration would impose another ban on tourism, their employers would look after their daily needs. However, since private entities have limited funds and resources, they are unable to manage the workers' expenses for a prolonged period of time, and eventually they and their families suffer immensely.

This is a matter concerning thousands of lives on the Islands, whose families are depending on their income from tourism to feed their children and aged parents. The second Lockdown had devastating impact on these families, and while they were barely recovering from their agony, the latest ban on tourism, vide Order No. 30, dated: 10.01.2022 has dealt a hard blow on their stomach and psyche.

The petitioners therefore appealed to the Chief Secretary to look into this matter and accept the requests to review the Order dated: 10.01.2022, to suitably modify the ban on tourism activities.