Industry stakeholders share their view on how, if at all, COVID vaccination will change the way people travel.
Rajiv Mehra, President, IATO
I believe that what WTTC is also saying is that once you have been vaccinated and given a certificate, it should be good enough to travel. There should be no need for a PCR test, so the government could allow that as an authenticated certificate. These could be issued by different governments and be easily verified online. Once that starts, they should allow e-visas.
Swadesh Kumar, Owner, Shikhar Travels India
Vaccination is the only solution. If you want to go anywhere, you need a vaccination certificate and show it to them and you will be allowed to go. Hence, it will be a passport to travel and those thinking of travelling should get the vaccination done as well. When we announce that India is open to tourists, people will come. They would only need two doses of vaccination, and that’s the passport for you to travel to anywhere in the world. In my opinion, June-July would be when domestic market will bounce back and September-October would be when inbound will bounce back.
Anil Srinivasan, Executive Director, JTB India
Vaccination will undoubtedly change the landscape of travel. However, I think it’s going to be a slow and gradual process. Some of the tourism bodies that we talk to, such as the NTOs, are saying that it would still take time. They are looking at getting their entire population vaccinated before they even consider opening their borders. I think, even after they open up the borders, there will be many protocols in place depending on the country and based on their requirements. It’s not that it will be a ‘free for all’ and every citizen of every country can come in. Yes, the vaccination will help, but it’s going to be a slow process. It’s not going to open up overnight.
Jagdeep Bhagat, National Coordinator, NIMA
Vaccination is giving some sort of confidence not only to travellers but to other stakeholders like airlines, hoteliers and tour operators as well. The hoteliers are very optimistic that once the vaccination starts and if it’s done for most of the population, people will start moving. However, if you talk from the traveller’s perspective, they are still in a wait-and-watch module. Even if they have got the vaccine, they still aren’t sure of its success rate, despite what the vaccination companies claim. As an operator, my confidence is building, but not as a traveller. It will take at least a year for them to think of moving in good numbers.
Ravi Gosain, MD, Erco Travels
COVID-19 vaccination coming in is a good thing for the travel and tourism industry. I think it will take another three to four months when most of the people in this world will be vaccinated and travel will gradually start. Hopefully, there is no new mutant form coming in. While there have been new mutant forms in the past, when people are vaccinated, it will be easy for them to travel safely. So, I believe that in the next four to five months, we will see clear guidelines and hope that inbound tourism returns. Hence, it can be said that inbound will start bouncing back from October or the last quarter of this year.
Deepak Bhatnagar, MD, Aamantaran Travel
If people in our source markets are fully vaccinated, I am sure they will be more confident to travel and come to India. We have already made a request to IATO and to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare that at least the frontline tourism workers should be given the vaccination on priority. If we can do that, we will be able to convince our partners across the globe and in various source markets that even though the country is so big and everybody is not vaccinated, at least the tourism workforce be vaccinated, so that travellers have no problem in coming to India. This, I believe, will help us.
Rajnish Kaistha, Director, Paradise Holidays India
Vaccination will make a difference. We are looking at a new normal and that new normal will be travellers carrying their green vaccination passports and checks at the airport. They may not be looking for other things but vaccinated passengers,to welcome them and on arrival at the airport,also look to getting them vaccinated again or getting it checked. I am of the opinion that just like SARS or bird flu, this is going to stay, and we have to get used to living with it and move forward in life. Tourism is an activity which cannot be stopped because it’s human nature to travel.
Sanjay Razdan, Director, Razdan Travels
Vaccination is an ongoing process, and I don’t think it’s going to change much considering inbound or outbound. Nothing will change till flights are not re-started or the tourist visas are not issued, because as far as India is concerned, the cases are going down except in a few places. I think we are ready, as one can see domestic tourism moving at a big level. For inbound, I still feel that it will take time because the source countries, mainly Western Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, etc., are still badly affected. Until the source countries are not fine, it would still take at least 6-8 months before people will think of travelling long haul. Vaccination definitely is going to instil a lot of confidence in the travellers for sure, but until quarantine and other SOPs are not removed, inbound and outbound travel is still going to be difficult for some time. However, I hope that should start by October.
Riaz Munshi, President, OTOAI
Slowly, all the countries will start opening their borders for travellers. However, travellers will definitely take precautions despite being vaccinated. All SOPs and protocols will have to be in place, I believe. All the countries will do the checks at the border, but slowly and steadily, it will start. Many countries may open in April, like Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand, Russia, Ukraine, etc. However, they will definitely monitor the situation because not everyone is sure about how long it will take to stop the spread even after vaccination. We are not expecting travel to start 100 per cent immediately, but vaccination will definitely help in encouraging movement for tourism. Domestic travel is already in full swing. In a highly populated country like India, managing vaccination with such a great speed is commendable, and it will also help in outbound traffic’s surge.
Manmeet Singh, Proprietor, Sky High Tours & Travels
No one had dreamt what the COVID virus could bring to the entire world. What began in late 2019 and devastated all of 2020 still continues to exist. And, with new mutations coming in, something we keep hearing of every now and then, it is again very difficult for anyone to precisely say what will happen in the future as the new variants are different from the initial virus, to an extent. Things continue to be uncertain and there’s no knowing which way they will turn and when. However, trusting on World Health Organization and the medical fraternity which has come up with the vaccinations, I definitely feel that it will not only help health-wise, but will also definitely help in the economical movement and turning into real-time businesses. That said, only time will give us a true picture of how the COVID-19 virus will act out this year and how business will be.
Inputs by Nisha Verma