Omicron impact: Dark clouds gather over travel firms

Business

The spread of the new variant of Covid-19 virus could stall the recovery of the tourism sector, fear industry executives.

India’s largest online travel agency, MakeMyTrip said that it is premature to assess the impact of Omicron variant on overseas tour bookings.

Others in the travel sector however are worried about cancellations in the coming days as countries tighten travel restrictions.

“It is too early to assess the impact of the new Covid-19 variant on outbound travel.

“Additional protocols are already set in any case from several countries which will help contain the variant coming to India.

“We would come to know about the impact if any in coming days or weeks,” said Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group CEO of MakeMyTrip.

Demand for overseas trips has looked promising with wide recognition of Indian vaccines and vaccine certificates.

Popular destinations such as Singapore and Thailand too have opened the doors for Indian tourists.

But the detection of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in South Africa and the resultant flight bans has spooked the travel sector.

In Europe countries are tightening measures against Covid-19.

Israel has decided to ban the entry of all foreigners for fourteen days starting Sunday midnight.

In India, the union health ministry has asked all state governments to carry out a rigorous surveillance of all international passengers including testing on arrival of passengers coming from countries with higher health risk.

The decision about resumption of scheduled international flights too is being reviewed as per evolving global situation.

“There will definitely be an impact on bookings, especially to Europe.

Customers are making inquiries for trips to Sri Lanka, Maldives, Dubai and Turkey but they are far more cautious and are seeking greater clarity regarding the cancellation process,” said Guldeep Singh Sahni, former president of Outbound Tour Operators Association of India.

“Currently we have not seen many cancellations but if the gravity increases we will definitely see them as no one risk their lives for pleasure. Essential travel will continue,” said Jyoti Mayal, president of Travel Agents Association of India.

Mayal added that the association members are monitoring the situation and assisting customers who are impacted by travel restrictions.

Already those who had planned trips to South Africa are postponing their travel or opting for alternate destinations.

“We have no customers on ground in South Africa now and the last batch returned on November 20. There has been a lot of interest to travel to South Africa. Customer feedback about the tours too has been positive.

“However, the actual number of customers has been low because of high airfares,” said Pratik Shah, chief operating officer of Kulin Kumar Holidays.

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