At a time when people were looking forward to taking vacations and the travel industry was hoping for a good Christmas-New Year period, the new variant of the covid-19 virus, omicron, has been a dampener. But this time around, despite the fears and apparent setbacks, the travel industry is feeling upbeat, especially since there’s more information and more technology to ensure safe travel. Travellers, however, seem wary of taking risks and holidays.
Arun Bagaria, co-founder, TravClan, a B2B travel platform, says, “Omicron has definitely emerged as a concern for the travel sector. However, there is greater confidence among all stakeholders whether it is travel agents, travel tech platforms, hoteliers or travellers themselves. Unlike the last year when panic and misinformation dominated the scene, now there are ample anticipatory measures in place. There is technology to ensure contact-less operations and trends as well as practices that can keep travel operations running even when cases are reported.”
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The optimism stems from the fact that in the past few months, domestic leisure travel has started making a recovery. Pandemic-led trends such as workations and staycations also helped generate revenue for properties. Further, with a majority of the people getting vaccinated, the travel sector seems to be looking towards growth.
In the last two years, the hospitality industry—like many others—has taken to technology with the emphasis on seamless operations. Aditya Sanghi, co-founder and CEO, Hotelogix, provider of technology solutions for the hospitality sector, says, “Digital solutions such as contactless guest/passenger experiences have not only instilled confidence among consumers but have also helped establishments to function flawlessly despite the pandemic-led fears.”
Comprehensive and tailored public health and social measures by governments, and strict adherence to preventive and precautionary measures by individuals, is a must. Jay Bhatia, vice-president, Travel Agents Association of India, says, “The trade was looking at the revival of international travel with the Ministry of Civil Aviation opening up the skies effective December 15, but this has put a spoke in the wheel. Fortunately, domestic travel within India doesn’t seem to be impacted as much.” The government has decided that international flights will resume only after January 31, 2022.
Deep Banka, COO, Zostel, a community-led network of hostels and homestays with a presence in 40 destinations, is optimistic like the rest of his peers, “At the moment, we haven’t witnessed a significant impact on bookings. Governments and establishments have tried to act faster this time around, postponing the office joining dates, making tests mandatory, and beginning to reinstate tougher rules.”
While the travel sector is remaining optimistic in the face of adversity, quite a few people who made plans aren’t as sanguine. Pune-based Aravind KL, who was looking forward to a long-awaited vacation with his extended family, is frustrated as he’s cancelled his plans. “I’m not one for taking chances. I have senior citizens and kids in the family who were to travel. Even though it is frustrating to cancel your travel plans, I’d rather wait it out,” says he, adding, “Better safe than sorry!”