Just when we thought we are seeing the end of the pandemic, news of the Omicron variant has put the world back on alert. What might be affected most are year-end travel plans. As per reports, airports globally are seeing less travellers each passing day. In India, too, resumption of international flights slated from December 15 has now been pushed to January 31.
Travel companies were expecting a golden year-end and a good start to 2022. However, on November 28 and 29, MakeMyTrip reported a 10-15% dip in normal bookings and shared that people were relooking their plans. On December 2, the first two cases of Omicron were reported in India. Thomas Cook observed a few cancellations but they believe it is not a trend but a reality in the new normal Covid era.
“Pent-up travel demand continues to be strong despite high occupancy and rates/air fares, and our domestic demand is even higher than pre-pandemic levels,” shares Madhavan Menon, managing director of Thomas Cook India group.
“We look forward to a review of the deferred reopening of scheduled international flights with a calibrated restart that would increase capacity and bring rationalisation of fares — creating a healthy pipeline towards recovery in 2022,” shares Menon.
Online travel agency and search engine Yatra has observed a 25-30% increase in enquiries during the festive season and for winter travel as compared to 2020. A Yatra spokesperson shares: “Travelling internationally has become a challenge because of Omicron as countries are re-imposing travel restrictions. We have not witnessed any cancellations owing to the new variant as of now, but people are wary of future bookings and are enquiring about cancellation and refund policies. Additionally, we have seen that booking queries for flights have been affected by 20% overall.”
Madhavan shares that they have advised their customers to keep their travel plans unchanged till there is more clarity as currently there isn’t enough data on the new variant. “We are tracking updates from health experts/authorities and closely monitoring the situation and keeping our customers informed on a timely basis,” he adds.
Keeping the flux in mind, most platforms are offering flexible options to change, reschedule or cancel bookings, and are bundling bookings with travel insurance to cover Covid-19 related hospitalisation, hotel quarantine costs, etc.
Witnessing a surge in bookings and hoping for a positive beginning to the new year, the travel industry is now facing uncertainty yet again.