Satyam Bhatnagar runs a handicrafts shop in Paharganj’s main bazar, a backpackers’ paradise that boasts of hundreds of touristy establishments such as money changers, hotels, rooftop restaurants, tour operators, and handicrafts shops selling a range of stone and wood sculptures, puppets and magnets featuring Delhi monuments. His shop, Bhatnagar says, always saw 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,” he says.
The pandemic has almost wiped out tourism in Delhi. Paharganj, once a bustling, thriving market whose entire economy depends on foreign tourists, is a microcosm of the devastation caused by the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the capital’s tourism sector. The otherwise popular city tours conducted by Delhi Tourism —a Delhi government undertaking that facilitates tourism in the city — have no takers. Travel and tour operators in the city complain of the loss of lakhs of jobs and see no hope of their return in the near future.
This is quite a sad turn for the tourism industry in Delhi, a city which last year was ranked 11th in the list of ‘Top 100 city destinations’ in the world by Euromonitor International, a global market research agency. Besides, it was among the country’s top four destinations with about 29 lakh foreign tourists arriving in the city in 2019, according to India Tourism statistics.