NEW DELHI : India’s outbound tourism industry is likely to see further trip cancellations as more foreign governments work to keep the Omicron variant of the coronavirus at bay. Thailand has temporarily suspended the Thailand Pass, while Singapore will freeze all new airline ticket sales under its no-quarantine travel program from December 23 to January 20.

The Thailand Pass is a system to make the documentation process for incoming travelers more efficient and has also been used to monitor tourists.

The developments are expected to impact the outbound international travel season, with many companies reporting cancellations.

Travelers to Thailand should take an RT-PCR test every other day. Thailand does not allow people to enter the country except those traveling to Phuket, said Cholada Siddhivarn, director of the Mumbai office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. “This step comes following an increase in cases of the new variant of the coronavirus. People wishing to travel to Phuket can register for the Thailand Pass under the Phuket Sandbox and Happy Quarantine program, ”said Siddhivarn.

However, that is not enough, say local tour operators. Delhi-based Welgrow Travel, which mainly focuses on designing itineraries for wealthy travelers, has seen many cancellations. All holiday traffic from Welgrow to Europe for the winter has been canceled due to the spread of the Omicron variant, CEO Radhika Khanijo said.

“If Singapore and Thailand had fully opened up, it would have been a blessing for us at this time when we have to cancel so many trips to Europe. However, now all of our travel traffic is diverted to the Maldives and Dubai as it had been during the first wave of covid. While these two countries remain strong, I don’t know how long travel agencies can keep up with so little business, ”she said.

Singaporeans and permanent residents who hold tickets will not be affected by this, but international travel will be hampered. Thailand and Singapore have been very strict about their RT-PCR tests, she said. “We recently sent a family to Singapore, but they had to get tested every morning. It is not possible to send tourists to such places where they have to worry about testing every 24 hours, ”Khanijo said.

Thomas Cook (India) has received updates on the temporary measures taken as a precautionary measure by some international authorities, and will continue to monitor the situation closely, said Rajeev Kale, company president and country head, holidays, MICE, Visa. The bulk of Thomas Cook’s international travel demand is to the Maldives, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Turkey. Luxury travelers have also shown interest in France and Switzerland.

N Chirag Travels has received requests for cancellation of overseas trips over the past week, said Riaz Munshi, general manager of the company and chairman of the Outbound Tour Operators Association of India.

Since most of these were charters and bubble flights, it could be a knee-jerk reaction where countries want fewer travelers during the holiday season and then choose to open their borders later, he said. declared. “If the cases do not increase or are not as severe, most countries will open their borders after the second week of January. Protocols change daily and people fear being quarantined in a foreign country due to changing rules in different countries; Indians are more inclined to travel within the country or to Dubai and the Maldives for the holiday season, ”he said.

Khanijo said she did not expect a drop in cases at this time due to Omicron. “The trip is the first to be affected and the last to recover,” she said.

If covid doesn’t hurt more, India’s outbound tourism market is on track to surpass $ 40 billion by 2026 with a double-digit growth rate in 2021-2026, according to ResearchandMarkets.com.

“While the momentum for travel to Singapore had not yet picked up, we were seeing a steady increase in searches for leisure travel bookings to Thailand. In fact, our recently launched air charter service with Go First to Phuket has been very well received. As part of our existing partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, we will continue to send tourists as part of the Sandbox program to Phuket for Christmas and New Years. However, in light of the development of the situation, we anticipate that travelers postpone their international travel plans, ”said a spokesperson for MakeMyTrip.

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