Coronavirus: Travel industry seeks government support to tide over impact of Covid-19 outbreak

coronavirus, coronavirus impact

By Anwesha Ganguly

Representatives of the Indian tourism sector have written to the government seeking waivers to help tide over the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the industry. The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) has written to the finance, aviation and tourism ministries on Tuesday seeking financial support to deal with the disruption from Covid-19, said Jyoti Mayal, President, TAAI.

According to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) initial assessment last month, a 13% full-year loss of passengers is expected in the Asia-Pacific region.

"We have sought reliefs through tax rebates, and requested the government to allocate relief funds for the survival of the industry as we expect a deep impact. We are asking for reduction in interest rate, overdraft and loan relaxations. Looking at the current situation, we have written letters to the ministries. Ministry of tourism has said they are closely watching the situation and will keep issue timely advisories," Mayal told FE.

Indian travel agents are faced with piling financial stress in the wake of the Covid-19 infections outbreak, as countries around the world are putting travel restrictions. Travel agents have been swarmed with refund requests from customers who are cancelling plans. Meanwhile, some airlines, hotels and other service providers are not issuing full refunds, Mayal said. Future bookings are expected to see a significant drop as well.

"Southeast Asia and Italy being one of the most preferred destinations for Indians, we can anticipate a drop of about 20-25% in terms of future bookings, though it is too early to predict any drastic impact. They (tourists) are wary of making fresh bookings to the affected locations and airfares to these destinations have dropped by 20-30%. We have received about 35% of cancellation queries from travellers planning their trips to foreign locations during holiday season," said Sabina Chopra, Co-Founder, Yatra.com.

On Monday, IATA requested aviation regulators worldwide seeking the suspension of slot allocation rules due to the Covid-19 impact.

"Given these extraordinary circumstances as a result of the public health emergency… Flexibility is needed for airlines to adjust their schedules according to extraordinary demand developments," IATA said, adding that research has shown that traffic 'has collapsed on key Asian routes'.

The government on Tuesday suspended visas of tourists arriving from Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan. The government had already suspended visas issued to Chinese nationals. Indian citizens have also been asked to avoid travelling to China, Iran, Republic of Korea and Italy.

"Passengers (foreign and Indian) other than those restricted, arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan must undergo medical screening at port of entry," said ministry of health and family welfare.