“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is passé the new adage goes – “All work and no ‘travel’ makes Jack a dull boy. With the madness of ‘work from home’, long shifts and sleepless nights, taking a break is what currently dominate the mind of most workaholics. But the ongoing pandemic has made the idea of travelling a dicey one.
Every year, from October to February travel agencies see a surge in booking as travel enthusiasts get ready to tick places off their bucket list. With family, couple and solo packages, travel agents get neck deep in work sorting out itineraries for customers. Till last year travel and tourism was considered a sunshine industry which is never always brimming with activity as travelling as a hobby has caught up exponentially over the past few decades. An exciting experience for people, the travelling industry also forms a major part of GDP in many countries including Thailand, Bali, Maldives, who solely survive on tourism. Hence, a ban on this industry was a bolt from the blue for these nations. To delve deeper about the challenges faced by the industry, we at Optimist News spoke to some renowned travel agents who have started opening shops.
Changes in industry
Samir Sarkar, Proprietor Travel Chhuti Chhuti, spoke about the precautionary measures being taken to encourage travelling amongst tourists during the unlock phase.
“All our India tours packages have shifted to West-Bengal oriented plans. Also to encourage tours post lockdown, subsidized Covid precautionary charges are being added to maintain precautions. We charge around 250-300 per traveller which is spent solely for Covid safety measures since some places are not taking adequate safety measures. Every day, thermal screening is done and face shields and masks are provided,” says Sarkar.
Since travelling involves gathering many are still sceptical of the idea. However, since this industry provides the much needed respite from routine and monotony, post lockdown things are looking up fast. People are in general reluctant to follow government imposed regulations of doing Covid tests before travelling. As a rule, anyone travelling to another country will have to undergo Covid test both before and after taking a flight. This is thwarting travel plans of many,” says Shouvik Majumdar, one of the founding members of Travelxploria.
Hurdles during Covid
During the pandemic like all other industries the travel and tourism industry remained totally shut. With the fear of virus spreading people stopped taking short trips, let alone international tours. Niloy Nag, a senior employee of Kundu Specials Travel Agency is still unsure of what lies ahead.
“Travelling will see a major change, till now there is no specific guideline. We are finding new ways to make travel safer and attract customers. Also, we are now moved to the digital way of operations and putting in place proper Covid protocols while conducting tours. As we cook our own food during tours, we are trying to maintain utmost hygiene. There was no business for the past few months and during the lockdown that is in May-June, we had 50 bookings to Bhutan. As the trips were cancelled we had to refund the money, compromising profits. Times were really dark and business suffered immensely”.
Future of Travelling
The pandemic is still on and there seems to be no respite. However, people are getting used to the new normal and are fast adapting to the changing ways of living life including travelling. Shouvik Majumdar seems to have a positive outlook towards 2021 when he says “As per bookings received, we see family tours are still not happening but we have started getting requests in December and January. That said, international tours are witnessing an all time low, in spite of attractive rates and best prices. Very few who do not want to miss the offers, are braving to take the plunge despite the scare.
“Also to encourage tours post lockdown, we are offering customized plans with complete adherence to Government regulations which includes sanitized cars and hotels. For group tours, managers will be in consultation with local doctors. Post lockdown, we are gradually seeing a rise in business and with winter here, we have started receiving booking almost every day. That’s something to look up to,” says Sarkar
Majumdar adds, “Tourism as an industry will never cease, and soon there will be a surge and the sector will see a boom. Further with the opening of the flights in full swing, aviation sectors will also get the much needed boost. Soon the travel industry will bounce back in a new way.”
The current situation of travelling can be compared to a situation where a person doesn’t see his favourite food for a long time and when he finally does the excitement knows no bounds. By all means he will savour it to the fullest. In all likelihood, 2021 will open new vistas in tourism where we will see the ones afflicted with wanderlust taking travelling to newer horizons.