With India imposing curbs on visas for foreign tourists, in order to contain the spread of coronavirus, the tourism and civil aviation industries are expected to be badly hit. All tourist visas have been suspended until April 15.
Travelers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 this year will be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days.
India has also suspended the land border crossing points with Pakistan indefinitely and closed 18 of 37 border crossing points with other neighbouring countries.
The country caters to around 10 million foreign tourists a year, and Pronab Sarkar, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, told Livemint that the losses this year will be around US$3 billion. Many tourists who had booked to visit the country next month have been forced to shelve their plans.
States that depend heavily on tourism revenue, such as Rajasthan and Kerala, are going to be badly affected by cancelled hotel bookings and tours. In Rajasthan, four out of 10 people earn their livelihood directly or indirectly through tourism, said Rachna Singh, CEO of the Federation of Hospitality and Tourism of Rajasthan.
In Kerala, known for its famed backwaters, the hotel occupancy has fallen drastically. The first cases of coronavirus reported in the country were in Kerala and since then the state has been seeing a decline in hotel occupancy. Hotel rates across the country have dropped by about 18% amid a flood of cancellation requests, claims Sabina Chopra, co-founder of Yatra.com, a travel portal.
The virus scare has also affected the movement of Indians going abroad for business or holidays. The tour operator body said 50% of planned tours have been cancelled this month and that the number of advance bookings for the summer vacations is low. Yatra.com said there has been a 35% drop in the number of people inquiring about trips to foreign destinations.
For the Indian aviation industry, which was already affected by the travel advisory to coronavirus-hit countries, the new decision is likely to further dent their bottom lines, despite a fall in aviation fuel prices. InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, which operates the country’s leading domestic airline IndiGo, has claimed that bookings have dropped by 15-20% in the last few weeks.
National carrier Air India, which operates several long-haul international flights, had to suspend flights to Rome, Milan and Seoul following the government travel advisory. The current blanket ban on foreign tourists is expected to force the airline to redeploy some of its aircraft domestically.
Air India has suspended flights to Rome from March 15 to 25, adding to suspensions to Milan and Seoul from March 14 to 28. The government decision will also hurt foreign airlines who make up the lion’s share of international air traffic from and to India.
Several major global carriers, including Lufthansa, British Airways, and Emirates, have already reduced capacity worldwide in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. The new visa curbs are expected to further dent their businesses.