The fear of Covid gone and restrictions like mandatory RT-PCR tests withdrawn, Kolkatans have started making their summer travel plans much earlier than they used to before the pandemic, tour operators said.
Before the Covid pandemic brought a pause to international and domestic travel, most people would start booking for summer holidays in March. But this year, tour operators in Kolkata said, the rush for bookings started in the first week of February.
Multiple tour operators told The Telegraph they had never seen bookings for summer vacation start so early. The air fares in some of the sectors for April and May are going up sharply, said travel agents.
City-based businessman Naresh Parnani has booked a 12-day family trip to Europe in May. “We did not travel in the last three years because of Covid. This time I have booked early because there seems to be a rush. Booking early means better deals,” said Parnani, who will be accompanied by his wife and two children.
Asmita Ahmed has booked a trip in May to Vietnam with her husband and two sons.
“Earlier, we would book a month before the journey. Now, we don’t take chances because visa processing often takes a lot of time,” said Asmita.
Tour operators said normality was finally being restored in the tourism sector.
“Since many people had not travelled over the past three years, they are determined to go on vacation now. Many are booking very early to avoid delays in visa processing and are also apprehending that the cheaper options will not be available if they delay the bookings,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.
Most countries have withdrawn travel restrictions rolled out during the Covid pandemic.
The Indian government had made it mandatory for those coming from or via China, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand and Japan to get tested for Covid-19 and upload a self-declaration on the Air Suvidha portal of the civil aviation ministry. Only those with a negative test were allowed to enter.
However, since these countries are witnessing a decline in Covid cases, the Union ministry of health and welfare had on February 9 withdrawn the restrictions.
Tour operators said the withdrawal would boost tourism further.
“The testing protocol were a hindrance to the restoration of normality in tourism. People were not even transiting via these countries. Now, we are expecting a huge demand for travel to these countries, especially Thailand and Singapore. Also, those travelling to and from Australia and New Zealand will be benefited,” said Manav Soni, chairman, eastern region, Travel Agents Association of India.
In the domestic sector, too, bookings for summer trips have picked up. “We had announced two group travels to Himachal Pradesh in May. The slots have filled up,” said Raktim Roy of Dolphin Travels. “Kashmir slots are selling fast too.”