A surge in cases of COVID-19, particularly the Omicron variant, has the country’s travel and hospitality industry staring at uncertainty once again, as holidays, weddings and other events are being cancelled or postponed.
The outlook for the next couple of months has turned bleak, with state governments announcing a series of curbs, including night curfews, weekend curfews and travel restrictions for both international and domestic passengers.
Multiple travel agents contacted by Moneycontrol for this report said that 30-50 percent of their customers have sought to cancel or reschedule their bookings for January.
In Delhi, most travel agents said that around half their customers who had made reservations for January have cancelled plans in the past week. “Bookings to Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Srinagar, Ladakh, Leh, Shimla and Dehradun are all being cancelled by customers, especially in January,” said an executive from Delhi-based Welgrow Travels.
He added that customers were even considering whether or not to reschedule their bookings for a later date due to the uncertainty surrounding how long the new wave of COVID-19 would last.
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An executive from Skylink Travels said that due to restrictions on the number of guests who could attend social gatherings due to the new outbreak, weddings were also being affected.
Data from online travel agency Yatra.com indicates that around 30 percent of customers who had earlier made travel plans for January are now looking to cancel their plans or reschedule for a later date.
“Travel restrictions announced by Ladakh, Goa, Delhi, Maharashtra and Kolkata have had the biggest impact on cancellations in the past week. Many tourists who were looking to travel beyond January 15 have reached out to us about rescheduling or cancelling their travel plans,” an executive at Yatra.com said.
He added that heavy snowfall in winter destinations, the rising COVID-19 cases and travel restrictions were taking a hit on the tourism industry in India.
“Customers have started cancelling plans for January. However, this will add to the pent-up demand for the industry,” said Jyoti Mayal, president of the Travel Agents Association of India.
MP Bezbaruah, secretary-general of the Hotel Association of India, said that there had been an abrupt rise in cancellations since the last week of December, initially by international tourists and then by domestic passengers.
Airlines were also experiencing a rise in cancellations, multiple officials Moneycontrol spoke to said.
“There have been quite a few cancellations due to the rise in cases witnessed both in Mumbai and Delhi in the past week. Passengers who were earlier looking at Delhi and Mumbai as layovers for further travel are now delaying their travel plans,” a senior executive from a domestic airline said.
The rise in cases due to the Omicron virus has also led to many state governments across India cancelling regional festivals, industry executives said.
“The government has cancelled the famous Apricot Blossom Festival that is organised in Kargil district and we had to cancel three tours because of the same,” an executive from Elroy Tours & Travels said.
Similarly, some state governments have announced curbs on gatherings and major events like the bi-annual Auto Expo have also been cancelled by organisers.
The North East Festival and the Annual World Book Fair that were scheduled to be held in Delhi in January are also likely to be cancelled.