With the coronavirus outbreak triggering a worldwide panic, Indian travel firms too are feeling the pinch.
According to Nishant Pitti, co-founder & CEO, EaseMyTrip, the company has seen around 80 percent dip in flights and hotel bookings for China. China is considered to be an important market for business travel.
"Air-travel particularly for business-travellers between India and China has witnessed a major boom. However, lately, we have seen a sharp decline in this particular segment," he said.
Concurring with Pitti, Mohit Poddar, CEO and Co-Founder Shoes on Loose, travel aggregator, said: "China is a huge market and given the current scenario all trade conference to the country are canceled. Also, Chinese visitors scheduled to travel to India have canceled which will impact the inbound operators and tour providers the most."
Along with China, Indians are apprehensive about traveling to other international destinations. Poddar said there is a lot of anxiousness among the travelers regarding international destinations.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"Ever since the news of the Coronavirus epidemic has hit, we have seen a fairly large drop in travel volumes to South East Asia and China. Of our customers traveling to the region, we have seen about half put a stop to their bookings in total, while the travel volumes overall dropped by upto 60 percent. One of our most frequent traveling customers have reduced their travel to South East Asia and China by almost 65 percent which is a pretty large number, said Anish Khadiya Co-Founder & Chief Business Officer, ITILITE, a SaaS-based integrated travel desk solution for corporates.
"Some of the locations we used to see bookings for included Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Taipei, but those have completely dried up over the past 40-odd days, while overall, the trips to places like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, even Bangkok have drastically come down," he added.
The few places which people are definitely avoiding include Singapore for which his company has seen 100 percent drop in new queries. As for destinations like Vietnam, Thailand, Southeast Asia (other locations like Bali, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives), the drop in inquiries is 70 percent, 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively.
Bookings for cruise travel has also gone down as Poddar is seeing a 70 percent drop in inquiries.
He added that for China and Hong Kong they are seeing no inquiries as of now.
The silver lining for the travel sector in India is the anticipation of more Indians choosing to travel within the country in order to compensate for their travel plans, said Pitti.
"We expect India to gain some inbound tourism market due to complete shut-down of China. People who had planned to go to China, Hong Kong and Singapore earlier are travelling within India or other destinations. As of now we don't see any avoidance of place within India. Within India, we have seen a great drop in bookings for Kerala as it is a destination that has been red-marked for coronavirus which is why people are avoiding this destination," Poddar said.
For overseas travel plans, Indian travel firms are giving other options.
"We are recommending alternate destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa, Americas, Tanzania, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Seychelles," said Daniel D’souza, President and Country Head, Leisure, SOTC Travel.