Publication date: March 3, 2020

Ahmedabad: Niranjan Joshi and his friend Shashikant Vyas had their bags packed – if all had gone as per the plans, their families would have started off on the summer vacation to Hong Kong via Singapore on March 4. “But now with the travel advisory in place and COVID-19 scare, we cancelled the tour. However, we have been told that the travel company would not refund the money outright – the airline has given 90-day period if we want to travel again. We are in process of getting other refund,” said Joshi.

The Joshis aren’t the only ones whose holiday plans were sabotaged, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. According to estimates by tour operators, at least 35% of bookings to destinations in the far eastern countries have already been cancelled, after the news about widespread outbreak of coronavirus infections appeared.

“At least 35% of the ticket bookings for holidays in the far east for travel scheduled in April, have already been cancelled. On the other hand, some are still in wait and watch mode and waiting for a revised notification from these countries about the epidemic situation,” said Anuj Pathak, secretary, Tour Operators and Travel Agents’ Association of Gujarat (TAG).

“Even routes such as Dubai, and by extension UAE, have also got affected,” he added. Some 6,000 to 8,000 people travel to southeast Asian countries from Ahmedabad alone during the summer vacation season, according to prominent travel operators.

While the destinations in Europe and the Far East are very much in demand for summer holiday season, the coronavirus epidemic has cast a shadow over the holiday plans of various moving to Europe as well. For travellers like Shagufta Nadiadwala, it’s a double whammy. “We had our fingers crossed when it came to COVID-19 scare related to international travel. But along with southeast Asian countries, now it’s even Europe – we have our tickets booked for Italy which has now locked down the country for tourists,” she said.

“With that route closed, several inquiries are now about destinations such as Almaty, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, among others in eastern Europe including Russia due to cheaper airfare and hotels. This season, we have cancelled about 35% of overall bookings,” said Manish Sharma, secretary of TAFI’s Gujarat chapter.

Tour operators also feel that domestic tourism too may gain traction. “Frequent travellers would surely travel, I believe that domestic circuit including Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and north-eastern states would gain Gujarati tourists,” Pathak explained.

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