While ‘revenge travel’ has perked up hope, the overall tourism sector is still far from recovery with curbs in place
Deep Kalra, Chief Executive Officer of MakeMyTrip, India’s largest online travel agency (OTA), recently spoke about the concept of “revenge travel,” where people, bored out of their minds being stuck at home, are travelling to resorts and destinations across the country to make up for lost vacation time. They have often been using their personal modes of transport for that “disinfected” comfort. That said, with international travel, particularly leisure travel, still in the doldrums with limited flights and all sorts of rules, the revival of the travel and tourism sector is still a season away. For example, while there are “air bubbles” between India and some countries, transit through a third country is prohibited. So while an Indian can travel to the United Arab Emirates or the US, transiting via Dubai to go to the US is not allowed without some sort of quarantine. And even as domestic air travel is picking up, traffic is still around two-thirds of what it was before the pandemic hit. Even as news of a vaccine has lifted spirits, particularly on the stock markets, it is still a long time before any of it can be deployed. Now Expedia, one of the world’s largest OTAs, has said that it might be summer of 2021 before the travel and tourism industry actually recovers to any semblance of what it was before the pandemic. Many frequent fliers still do not have the confidence to fly even as airlines and airports talk about enhanced sanitisation.
The collapse in the travel industry has hit several parts of India, which depended on international tourists, really hard. There are no European tourists to be seen in Rajasthan right now, hitting not just hotels but also the livelihoods of artisans and folk performers. As a third wave of Covid-19 cases hits cities like Delhi, it is inevitable that the cases will spread and the restrictions on weddings will become more widespread. That will devastate another money-spinner, the destination wedding sector. The Government has tried to shore up the industry. Nevertheless millions of livelihoods have been impacted by the drop in travel and tourism and the Government must find a practical way to assist the affected. They might have been airline pilots or an artisan selling trinkets to tourists, they could have been guides at the Taj Mahal or a self-employed taxi driver. We should not fool ourselves by pretending that things will become alright now that an effective vaccine has been developed. The smaller players in the hospitality business may not last that long.