New Delhi: The coronavirus pandemic could deal a crippling blow to the Indian travel and tourism industry, specially with the government suspending all visas, with the economic impact being assessed to run into thousands of crores of rupees. According to industry chamber CII, this is the one of the worst crises ever to hit the Indian tourism industry impacting all its geographical segments – inbound, outbound and domestic, almost all tourism verticals – leisure , adventure, heritage, MICE, cruise, corporate and niche segments.
The whole tourism value chain across hotels, travel agents, tour operations, destinations, restaurants, family entertainment venues and air, land and sea transportation have been hit.
In an impact assessment of the coronavirus pandemic, CII Tourism Committee said inbound foreign tourism of over USD 28 billion in value terms accounts for an average 60-65 per cent between October to March.
“As the news of the virus started picking up from November, the percentage of cancellations started going up in this segment exponentially and is reaching a peak of almost 80 per cent now in March in many Indian locations. The value at risk from this segment will be in multiples of tens of thousands of crores,” the CII assessment report said.
With India cancelling all visas, the chamber said the impact “will be worse”.
It further said, “The forward bookings for the inbound season of October 2020-March 2021 which should have started picking are all muted. These are showing highly discouraging signs with cancellations of important global travel marts which are marketplaces for contracting for the next season.”
It further said there are reports of large scale forward cancellations from NRI segment from developed markets, which account for over 60 per cent during April to September inbound visits.
“Unless the progression of the virus stops, almost the entire value for the remainder of 2020 season is at risk,” the report added.
ANAROCK Property Consultants Chairman Anuj Puri said India’s hospitality sector will definitely be impacted by the announcement of a global pandemic, and the mounting numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country.
“The cancellation of visas for foreigners as well as the strong advice issued to Indians to refrain from unnecessary travel will have a marked effect. This is the most unsettling healthcare crisis in recent times and hotel bookings will go south,” he added.
On Indians being advised to refrain from unnecessary travel, as per the CII report almost 28 million plus Indians are estimated to have travelled outside in 2019 and there were almost 1.8 billion domestic tourist footfalls.
The holiday season of Indians — those travelling within the country and outside — is heavy in April-July, October and December.
“The December holiday season of 2019 took an estimated hit of almost 40-50 per cent, the holiday season of April to July 2020 is likely to take a humongous hit which could be as high as 80-100 per cent, unless there is positive news of the progression of virus decreasing,” the CII assessment report said.
There are advanced cancellations and highly reduced forward booking pipelines for the holiday season. Only corporates are flying and that too only on highly essential same day travel. Most of the MNCs are advising work from home, stifling travel, it added.
On suspension of visas, MakeMyTrip Group CEO Rajesh Magow told, “The period between February till the end of March is typically a lean period because of exam season but we are seeing a demand slowdown for the upcoming summer holiday season especially for international travel. The situation remains dynamic making it hard to quantify the actual impact on our business and industry at large.”
He further said, “The decision by the government will have an impact on inbound and outbound international travel. So far there are no restrictions or advisories issued for domestic travel.”
VFS Global Regional Group COO – South Asia, Middle East and North Africa, Americas Vinay Malhotra said, “While it is too early to comment on the impact of coronavirus on visa application trends, so far, our visa application processes in India continue on schedule as per the mandates of our client governments.”
He also said the company is exploring steps to assuage concerns of people about visiting busy public areas due to the nature of the virus by considering discounted rates on courier return services for visa customers who want to avoid returning to the visa centres to pick up their passports.
Besides, he said, “We are also contemplating lower fees for our Visa at your doorstep service, for those customers who are requesting an alternative to visiting the centres to submit visa applications.”