Just when the heavily battered outbound travel industry was looking forward to green shoots to emerge, the news that the Omicron virus has made an appearance has shattered their hopes. South Africa, one of the most sought-after destinations for Indians faced the brunt as countries started shutting their doors on the Southern African states. Slowly but steadily the Omicron virus has made its appearance in over three dozen countries around the world and the World Health Organisation (WHO), has termed the decision by countries to stop flights to South Africa as unfortunate.
However, this has not stopped countries from formulating their policies to keep people out either through stringent testing or making post-arrival conditions rigid thereby making the entire holiday experience unpalatable.
The Indian government has also suspended the regular international flights that were scheduled to begin from December 15, 2021 and this has put paid to many Indians who despite the risks involved were willing to holiday overseas. In a sense, the demand was more in the form of revenge tourism.
Overseas leisure and corporate travel that had picked up over the last few months are slowing reducing as companies want to play safe and keep their employees safe.
UK and USA have introduced stringent conditions for travel, and this makes travelling overseas a cumbersome experience. However, destinations such as UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and Maldives to name a handful of them are still welcoming Indian tourists. All these economies depend on tourism for their growth and if tourism does not take off, it will create hardships for their people. These are pragmatic policies and should be welcome.
One major short-haul market that’s still out of bounds for Indians is South East Asia. The countries in this region, namely, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and to a certain extent Australia and New Zealand (though not in South East Asia), have closed their doors to tourism. It is rather unfortunate as the destinations that Indians can travel have shrunk since the pandemic has begun.
Outbound tour operators who have started bookings now face an uncertain future. It has been noted that tour operators are no longer attracting staff as no one wants to enter this industry as the uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 variants have made people fearful and they do not want to risk their careers.
This is a sign of bad times as before the pandemic the Indian outbound tourism was one of the fastest-growing sectors in India and Indians were travelling in large numbers. The outbound industry is on its knees and the emergence of the Omicron virus has hit the nail in the coffin.
We hope this blows over quickly and we emerge to see light at the end of the tunnel.