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International travel and tourism have started recovering, with some agents reporting a 40 percent rise in the booking of foreign flights and hotels as the country recover from the second wave of COVID-19 and more countries allow Indians in.
“In the past week, we have received a large number of inquiries and bookings for flights and tours for Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Bangkok for the last two weeks of July and first two weeks of August,” an executive from Delhi-based Swan Travels told Moneycontrol.
While most bookings for flights have come from students heading for international colleges, which typically start in August or September, inquiries from casual travelers looking for a break have also risen in the last week, people in the travel trade said.
They expect a shortfall of international flights from India to Southeast Asian countries in August because of the rising demand for these destinations.
“Most of Europe, US, Australia still remains shut for travel for India till now, and their embassies are now slowly opening up, but getting approvals for a visa is still quite slow. Travelers are looking at countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Maldives, and Thailand,” an official from Swan Tours said.
An executive at Welgrow Travels said the agency also received requests for budget accommodations for a few weeks to a month from some customers who are looking to travel while “working from home” from a new destination.
According to an executive at the online travel agency and travel search engine Yatra.com, international flight and hotel bookings have risen by around 40 percent in the last week, while the online traffic of the website is now rising for countries that have started allowing Indian tourists or have eased quarantine rules.
Domestic Indian airlines are also looking to increase the number of flights to these countries. Last week SpiceJet announced it would launch international flights to Male from Kochi and Mumbai.
The Travel Agents Association of India, a domestic industry body with around 3,000 members, also expects international tourism to constantly rise for the next few weeks as more people get vaccinated and more countries ease restrictions.
“Travel to the middle-east, (countries including the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait), Africa, and Europe will also rise in the next few weeks as international travel opens up,” an official from TAAI said.
While the pickup in bookings in the last week is encouraging the tourism industry, the numbers are still much lower than the pre-COVID-19 levels.
The travel trade is looking for more support from the Indian government for both international and domestic travel to boost the tourism industry.
“Most states are unaware of these recommendations and continue to impose restrictions. The Centre should issue an order to have them implemented at the state level, at the earliest, to spare travelers the difficulties,” the official from TAAI said.
The TAAI has also requested the government to consider widening the scope of its relief measures announced last month under which tourist guides recognized by the Ministry of Tourism and state governments can avail a loan up to Rs 1 lakh each, and travel and tourism stakeholders recognized by the Ministry of Tourism can get a loan up to Rs 10 lakh each.
The International Air Transport Association last week said international and domestic air travel across the globe improved marginally in May, compared with the previous month, but warned that extensive government restrictions continue to deter the complete recovery process in the aviation industry.
Recovery in international traffic, in particular, continued to be stymied by extensive government travel restrictions, the global aviation industry body said.
“It is disappointing that more governments are not moving more rapidly to use data to drive border opening strategies that would help revive tourism jobs and reunite families,” said IATA’s director general Willie Walsh.