“Till yesterday, there was no real push for cancellations. However, following the statement of the ministry, we have seen movement and a drop of 10-15% forecast over the coming days,” said Rajinder Rai, president, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI). He added that the industry, which has also been impacted by the economic slowdown, was looking forward to April-July season that is the peak outbound season for signs of recovery, though with growth figures at or below last year. Around 8 million Indians travel abroad every year. Some of the most frequented countries Indians travel to include US, Europe, Far East, Egypt, Turkey, Maldives and Mauritius.
Says, Madhavan Menon, managing director, Thomas Cook India, “Yes, we have seen some cancellations but is less than 10%. However, in a year when volumes are anyway low, a single booking lost is felt badly.”
None of the countries, including the United States (US), from where it started, have come up with a travel advisory on the same, despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) directing its member nations and declaring a swine flu pandemic, the first global flu epidemic in 41 years. Last Thursday, WHO in a statement sent to member countries had said that it is raising the pandemic alert level from phase 5 to 6, meaning that a global outbreak of swine flu has begun. The said move was undertaken as infections climbed in the US, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere.
Indicating that WHO is not recommending travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the influenza A(H1N1) virus, Arup Sen, executive director, Cox & Kings India Limited, said, “Customers are enquiring with us on the situation in countries that they intend travelling and we give them an idea based on the inputs we get from these locations. However, no one has called yet to cancel trips. We are coming to the end of the outbound season and it is business as usual.”
“There is a need to disseminate information regarding the disease and ramping up of precautionary measures at the gateways to the country,” said PR Srinivas, industry lead, tourism, hospitality and leisure, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Private Ltd.
Meanwhile, hoteliers in the country are also on guard and facing the brunt. Talking to Fe, Pascal Dupuis, general manager, The Leela Kempinski Goa, said, “Our staff is aware of Swine flu and ready to handle any emergencies. We are asking travellers about the last destination they visited and are watchful.”Rajeev Menon, area vice-president, India, Malaysia, Maldives and Pakistan, Marriott International Inc said, “There has been a marginal impact on our business due to the swine flu. Some cancellations have happened though are predominately in the corporate travel coming in from US and some Asian countries.”