The extension of ban on scheduled commercial international flights until further orders announced by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday sent hospitality companies and travel firms in a tizzy with their industry associations flagging the adverse impact on the beleaguered sector that was expecting a bounce back in the summer months. The industry bodies were hoping for the resumption of international flights in March.
Even though flights currently operational under air bubble arrangements as well as international cargo flights will continue, the order will throw off plans of both summer holiday makers and business travellers, companies said.
Indiver Rastogi, president and group head, global business travel at Thomas Cook India and SOTC said, while the industry at-large was optimistic of a date being announced for the reopening of scheduled flights, the announcement (of extended suspension) is quite dampening. The industry was looking forward to full capacity of commercial flights to meet the demand and supply gap, especially for the upcoming spring and summer holidays, he said.
“Pent-up demand and vaccine acceptance along with countries re-opening their borders is fuelling demand. Customers want to restart their travel plans and segments driving this demand are business travel, VFR (visiting friends and relatives) as well as leisure travellers. The increased capacity would have definitely helped stabilise fares and also provide the much-needed flexibility/flight options for customers,” he added.
While international travellers formed a small part of their customer base, stock-exchange listed Lemon Tree Hotels said the extended ban will have a negative impact on both business and leisure travel. “We hope that these flights will resume as soon as possible, which will help to boost recovery in the aviation and hospitality industries. As these flights restart, we expect that the uptick seen in travel to leisure and resort destinations will witness a further boom,” said Vikramjit Singh, president of Lemon Tree Hotels.
The travel and tourism sector has been a key contributor to the GDP. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, India ranked 10th among 185 countries in terms of travel and tourism’s total contribution to GDP in 2019. During that year, its contribution to the GDP was 6.8% of the total economy or about Rs. 13,68,100 crore. The sector, however, has been crippled by the pandemic in the last two years.
Aashish Gupta, consulting CEO of the Federation of Associations of Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH), said with decrease in covid cases it was assumed that ban on flights would be removed from 28 February. However, that hasn’t been the case. “We hope the authorities can take a fact-based view of the declining cases and immediately resume the flights so that the distressed tourism sector can be relieved. This will really improve the on-ground situation of travel operators,” he said.
K.B. Kachru, vice president of the Hotel Association of India (HAI) and chairman emeritus and principal advisor for South Asia at the Radisson Hotel Group said that while they understand that government’s measures may be in view of the rising covid cases globally, the hospitality sector has been relying on domestic tourism for a while now and was expecting some relief in business with international travellers coming to India. “Extending the ban on regular international flights will definitely leave a dent in the sector’s road to recovery. We hope the situation normalises soon so that the industry can get back on its feet sooner.”
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