Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Coronavirus: Indians choose domestic summer holidays, operators offer flex schemes

Flight bookings to southeast Asian countries have dipped significantly, but those to Western countries are seeing just a marginal drop at the moment; travel companies are waiting and watching to ascertain full impact

Published: Mar 6, 2020 03:28:16 PM IST
Updated: Mar 18, 2020 11:59:48 AM IST

Coronavirus: Indians choose domestic summer holidays, operators offer flex schemesNgurah Rai International Airport is seen nearly empty due to coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on March 2, 2020 in Bali, Indonesia. The novel coronavirus has affected tourism sector in many countries, including Indonesia
Image: Mahendra Moonstar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the travel and tourism industry is evident through two key developments: Cancellation of global events and postponement of vacation plans.

Some of the large-format events that stand cancelled as of now, for instance, include the London Book Fair, one of the biggest gatherings of the international publishing industry; the Google News Initiative Global Summit, an annual news conference; and the Adobe Summit, which was to be held in Los Angeles in March, but will now be an online event.

Online travel aggregator MakeMyTrip(MMT) feels that there could be a potential impact on the overall business of players in India if the outbreak spreads further westwards. “Data on our platform indicates that flight bookings for Southeast Asian countries have been impacted significantly. However, countries in the westward region, including US and Europe, are seeing just a marginal dip in numbers,” says an MMT spokesperson, offering no specific numbers. Many airlines in India have suspended flights to China.

Instead of travelling abroad, people are now considering vacations within India during the upcoming summer holidays. “Destinations high in demand include Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Kerala and the North-East India. In addition, [neighbouring] destinations such as Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal are gaining popularity too,” says Rajeev Kale, president and country head—holiday, MICE, visa at Thomas Cook (India).

Tourism companies are also offering travelers with flexibility. SOTC Travel, for instance, has introduced an ‘Ultra Flexi Scheme’ for new customers, which allows them flexibility on departure dates, excluding visa charges for cancellations due to COVID-19, says Daniel D’souza, president and country head, leisure, SOTC Travel.

At last count, 31 people in India have been tested positive for coronavirus at the time of going to press. So far, MMT does not see a noticeable dip in domestic bookings in India, but it might only be a matter of time. Global companies with offices in India are taking measures to avoid travel, while client meetings and off-sites have been turned into video conferences, if not postponed.