Omicron hasn’t hit domestic travel much, say tour operators

With India reporting two cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the tourism industry has again been impacted severely this year. Most of the tour operators have said that cancellations have increased during the holiday season in outbound travels, but the domestic travel plans have not been affected yet.
However, the tourism industry has been significantly affected due to Covid-19. In the last three days, travel agencies have witnessed 20% cancellation in outbound travel. “Due to the new guidelines, there has been some confusion in the minds of the travellers, specifically those who were planning to travel internationally, but domestic travel has not been affected much. However, if more guidelines come up from the Central and state governments, it can create a sense of fear among travellers and may impact tourism. In December, people take long leaves, so the tourism sector was expecting some increase of travellers at the end of December and the beginning of January, but now that hope has been dampened,” Jaydeep Bose, co-founder of Say Rooms and Homes, told The Sunday Guardian.
While talking about the peak seasons, he said, “The peak seasons are April, May and June for hill stations in India. Again, during Durga Puja and Dussehra, we see a significant rise in the number of travellers. For international travellers, specifically, the inborn tourists, December, January, February are the peak seasons. For destinations like Goa, the peak season starts during September and October. However, due to Covid-19, the entire schedule is disrupted and there is a lesser number of international arrivals at the moment.”
He further added, “Since I am involved with hotel associations and homestays in northeast regions, the majority of the clients are from India. Apart from this, prior to Covid-19, we had tourists from SAARC countries. Also, travellers from the USA and Canada would visit Gangtok, Assam, Darjeeling and so forth. The peak seasons are December, January and February.”
Asked about the reasons for the delay of economic recovery in the tourism industry, Bose said, “There is a lack of coordination between the Centre and the state governments. For instance, the Maharashtra government had issued different guidelines, whereas, the Centre has different guidelines. All these circumstances affect the travel industry.”
Similarly, a Chhattisgarh-based tourist guide and homestay owner in Shakeel Rizvi said, “Though India relaxed the restrictions, many countries followed strict guidelines in 2020. They were not issuing visas to the tourists, and also, they didn’t have a sufficient number of vaccines, so many people were unvaccinated and were avoiding travelling.”
However, with guidelines for international arrivals, many travellers faced hard times, but the situation has been considered better than the previous year. Rikant Pittie, a Co-Founder of EaseMyTrip, said, “In comparison to January-March 2021, we have witnessed a 50% jump in international travel bookings. People are gradually opening to the idea of international travel. In terms of Christmas and New Year, we have seen significant increase in bookings, with a 400% jump in advance air ticket bookings across India for December. We have also witnessed a rise in domestic and international airfares. Domestic flights have seen a temporary jump of 30% and international flights have seen a jump of 50% for the month of December.”
This year, Dussehra and Ganesh Chaturthi witnessed a 50% and 65% increase in travellers. “This year, we saw a jump of almost 50% for the Dussehra weekend and 65% for the long weekend of Ganesh Chaturthi. Apart from the festive seasons, we also usually witness significant growth during the year-end week owing to the vacation time that travellers get during this period,” Pittie told The Sunday Guardian.
Tourism provides jobs to many people, and multiplies the revenue, as everyone gets jobs including people who aren’t highly educated. However, Bose also believes that if the new variant causes a threat, many people who travel internationally may shift to domestic travelling plans, which may be a boon for the domestic sector.
Various reports state that more than 20 million people have lost their jobs in the tourism sector from April 2020 to December 2020. However, to ease the harsh circumstances, oan up to Rs 10.00 lakh each may be availed by the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) approved Tour operator/Travel Agents/ Tourist Transport Operators. Similarly, loans up to Rs 1.00 lakh each may be availed by Regional Level Tourist Guides (RLGs)/ Incredible India Tourist Guide (IITGs) approved by MoT and Tourist Guides approved by State Government/UT Administration. “With the decrease in demand, many within the hospitality and airline sector had to let go of their workforce to keep up with the decreased demand and to be able to maintain their revenue. However, the tourism industry witnessed a strong revival in 2021 compared to 2020. With domestic travel reviving at a strong rate without any major disruptions, we believe that the complete resumption of international travel, once everything settles down, will enable faster recovery of the industry,” Pittie told this paper.