The tourism sector was hit hard by the Covid pandemic and was just finding its footing after nearly two years of devastation. But before it could make much progress, the fear of the newly detected Omicron variant gripped countries and travel curbs were announced in several. This has resulted in increased travel cancellations, throwing a new challenge at the tourism sector.
Sriharan Balan, managing director of Madura Travel Services in Chennai told NDTV there have been 20 per cent cancellations in outbound travel in the last three days.
Read Omicron could cause more reinfections, say South African experts
The Omicron scare hit the industry just ahead of the holiday season and outbound travel to the US, Dubai and Europe ahead of the Christmas and New Years celebrations have already started seeing a fall. “Many who had planned to travel to these destinations this season are cancelling,” Mr Balan said.
Fresh travel restrictions in Maharashtra could also impact domestic travel.
Tamil Nadu, which has three international airports, got five lakh outbound travellers in the 2019 winter season. But the sector saw zero growth in 2020. In 2021, just when it was thinking of revival, the Omicron scare hit the country.
The lack of clarity on the variant is giving rise to uncertainty, leading to curbs and travel restrictions. It is yet to be established how the variant reacts to vaccines or the level of severity that it can cause.
While it is not clear where the variant emerged, South African scientists identified it last week, and many places, including the European Union and Canada, have restricted travel from the wider region.
For all the alarm, little is known about omicron, including whether it is more contagious, causes more serious illness or can evade vaccines.