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Vaccines – A green light to travel sector’s recovery

The countrywide vaccination drive rolled out on 16th January 2021 crossed an unprecedented mark of a total of 75 crore doses administered as of 13th September 2021. As India executed the world’s largest inoculation drive, in the initial phases it was threatened by vaccine hesitancy, which does not seem to be daunting anymore as the country continues to beat its own highest single-day vaccination record.

These numbers come as a relief as India heals from the brunt of the gruesome 1st wave and an even more pronounced second wave of the pandemic. Moreover, this feat is also a green signal for the travel sector that suffered a massive blow in the wake of Covid 19. The travel sector is a huge contributor to India’s GDP and also generates employment opportunities at a rapid rate.

Here are some statistical data to assess the aftermath of the Covid 19 outbreak on the aviation sector in India, The Airports Authority of India (AAI) reported a 92 percent fall in its revenue from Rs 2,973 crore during April-June 2019 to Rs 239 crore during the corresponding period in 2020. If we look at the global numbers, The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer reported that International arrivals of tourists fell drastically by 72% between January-October 2020. 

Accordingly, this phenomenon translated into a loss of US$ 935 billion in revenues from international tourism, which is more than 10 times the loss in 2009 under the impact of the global economic crisis. The 2009 bubble burst was the worst economic disaster the world had seen and to witness covid 19 create even more intense repercussions compared to that time, tells us just how urgent the situation is.

 

At the outset, what looked like the travel sector to be on a brink of collapse, the situation was quickly overturned as the world’s leading pharma companies: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Bharat Biotech started rolling out vaccines for the general public. The array of options and the fear of contracting the virus, especially with new variants being reported in different parts of the world, is pushing people to get jabbed as soon as possible as this seems to be the only way out of this debacle.

Domestic flight travel registered a monthly surge of 61% in July 2021 with nearly 50.07 lakh passengers travelling by plane. The surge in domestic flight bookings and inquiries as confirmed by several aggregators are owing to multiple reasons. As the festival season is around the corner, people are flying back to their hometowns to celebrate. Also, with “Work From Home” being upgraded from the New Normal to literally the Norm and many companies providing permanent work from home options, millennials are taking “Workcations” and are now adapting to “Work From Anywhere”.

While we co-relate the direct association between higher vaccinations numbers and surge in travel, at this point I’d also like to introduce a concept that is rather abstract but still relevant to this subject i.e. REVENGE TOURISM. This buzzword has been coined to depict the urge of the citizens to break free and vacation after a year of stress, anxiety, and isolation as travel restrictions remain in place.  

Even after repeated warnings to the citizens from top bodies representing doctors and government officials to not lower their guard yet, people are eagerly waiting to take a break after staying shut in their homes for almost two years and re-energizing through travel. This has been pretty evident as pictures of tourists flocking touristic destinations like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand started circulating on the internet.

HuffPost, an American blog also reported that many Americans and people around the world who had their vacations outright cancelled owing to the pandemic are now optimistic about the prospect of travelling again with the vaccination drives picking up pace and the case counts declining each day.

With many countries lifting the travel restrictions imposed for international travel, opening up their international borders, and relaxation of undergoing the mandatory quarantine for those fully vaccinated, citizens are finally reclaiming their lost freedoms and are using travel as an escape to what seemed like an incessant catastrophe.

Experts are still skeptical of whether there will be a closure to this deadly virus or will humans eventually evolve and learn to live with it, however, they do expect a rebound scenario in the future where travels may return to the pre-covid levels in 2- 4 years. 

With accelerated vaccine rollouts, improvement in travel confidence, and the revenge travel psychology of tourists, the travel sector is expected to boom. As of now, it is still too early to exactly predict how the travel sector will fare in the coming time but with the vaccines serving as the light at the end of the tunnel, it won’t be over-optimistic for us to expect a good run by the travel sector in countries with lower covid caseloads and effective and sufficient vaccine access

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