Tour operators and hotels brace for crisis after visa suspension

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NEW DELHI: New Delhi: Travel and hospitality industry insiders are bracing for a sharp drop in business following the government’s decision to suspend all tourist visas until April 15 in a bid to contain the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.

The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), a body representing more than 1,600 operators running inbound tours, said that while appreciating the proactive measures taken by the government, it requested the government to review the situation after ten days.

“The ban on all travel for a period of one month will have a cascading economic impact and result in job losses across the hospitality, aviation and travel industry,” the official said. IATO secretary, Rajesh Mudgill. “Given the staggering loss that the whole industry is watching, we are asking the government to consider a review of the situation after ten days and also consider providing tax relief to the sector as this will help to mitigate losses incurred Government may consider waiving GST assessments for the period or reducing rates for the following year.

The government on Wednesday evening announced the suspension of all existing visas for the country except for diplomatic, official, United Nations/international organizations, employment and project visas until April 15. The ban will come into effect from March 13 at the port of departure.

Rajeev Kohli, co-chief executive of Creative Travel, which specializes in inbound travel, said 40% of its customers were due to arrive within the next 30 days. “So this 40% that is coming will not come. The short-term impact is considerable. We saw crores of business evaporate between last night and this morning. It’s not an illogical decision, but it’s very inconvenient,” he said. “Given that our industry was already depressed, I can only hope that the government will understand and help us to remain viable. I am scared. I will survive but what about my 180 employees. What am I going to do with them?

Jaideep Dang, Managing Director of JLL Hospitality and Hospitality Group, said that while the move was a support measure, socially speaking, business-wise, it would likely have an impact on the hospitality industry, especially on luxury hotels. “Luxury chains have approximately 60-65% foreign travelers in their total customer mix and much of their business will potentially be affected this season. Luxury hotel rates are also expected to drop in Q1 and Q2 as a result. … Middle Large-scale brands, on the other hand, are getting more business from local tourists, but even for those chains, 2Q is going to be tough as domestic travel restrictions come into effect,” he said. -he adds.

Chains like ITC, Indian Hotels Company and Oberoi Group did not respond to emails seeking comment until press time.

Rajesh Magow, Group CEO of online travel agency MakeMyTrip, said the government’s decision would impact inbound and outbound international travel, but as the situation remained dynamic it was difficult to quantify the actual impact. on the activities of the company. While speaking to ET earlier, a MakeMyTrip spokesperson said international travel contributes about 20% of the group’s overall business.

Tour operators expect a substantial drop in tourist arrivals this year due to Covid-19 developments and the visa ban.

“2020 is a bad year for tourism for the world and for India, and there will be a substantial drop in arrivals. We have only been in business for two months so far and cancellations have been coming since the last week of February from tourists,” said Swagatam Tours Manager R Parthiban. The Delhi-based company caters to travelers from Italy, France and North America.

“I don’t expect any business to resume until September-October. Even after April 15, we don’t know what will happen with flights and travel restrictions. The countries of the Far East are in bad shape. So I don’t think we will allow Chinese later as well. Countries in Europe are also suffering,” he added.

Standalone luxury and high-end hotels in Delhi-NCR and other markets have lost business in crores in recent weeks, people familiar with the matter said.

Hotel bookings will take a hit, especially at all star hotels that attract “wealthy but capricious” foreign tourists, Anarock Property Consultants chairman Anuj Puri said.

“Additionally, the holiday approach in most parts of the country, which usually translates to healthy business and full occupancy, has been hijacked,” Puri said. “Cancellations are sure to pile up as international and domestic tourists become increasingly risk averse. In terms of market recovery, a lot depends on factors beyond the ability of hotel players or even government to influence,” he added.

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