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All set to fly!

India has vaccinated over 52 per cent of its eligible population and vaccination for adolescents have begun. The Omicron variant has subsided and according to government data, the third wave will subside very soon. Economic activity has resumed with most of the state governments relaxing restrictions. These developments in itself give people the confidence to travel. Domestic travel has been buoyant. This is the time to tap the vast outbound travel market.

Outbound travel has the potential to transform the industry. In India, travel and tourism contributes over 10 per cent to the GDP and this also supports employment of millions. To put it in perspective, according to GlobalData, outbound trips from India fell from 27 million in 2019 to just seven million in 2020. From 2009 to 2019 tourism increased by 143 per cent from 11 million travelers to 27 million. In a post-pandemic era, there is no reason why India cannot build on these figures, with projections showing a full recovery in 2024 and record numbers in 2025 for outbound travellers reaching 28.5 million.

Overseas destinations desperate to restart their tourism economies have opened up. Countries are opening up despite surge in Covid-19 numbers as we are also vaccinating citizens at record numbers. We have now learnt to manage the Covid-19 situation better with new medications and therapies in play.

The government should now play its part in restarting this engine of growth. We should allow opening up of our skies to all airlines as affordability is the key. If one looks at the boom period of 2009-19, it was on the back of reasonable international air fares. This has to come back. We should allow more flights as this will spur economic activity. People will travel only if they find it affordable as we have been reeling under the economic hardships of the last two years and we need to travel.

The industry on the other hand should also play a constructive role and offer affordable holidays with flexible cancellation policies. Airlines and hotels should also follow suit. There are reports that tour operators and travel agents are readying for the forthcoming outbound season as they feel that this is the opportune time to restart their business. There are a number of travel and tourism trade shows lined up in the coming months. Our very own SATTE 2022 has got encouraging response so far and this indicates that the stake holders are confident that we may make up for the loss of the last two years. Even if we achieve half of what we achieved in the summer of 2019, it’s a good sign.

Overall, the sentiments are positive, and we hope that the season turns out to be good for all the stakeholders in the outbound business.

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