Indian outbound agents in dire straits as local infections soar

With over four million Covid-19 cases, India is now the second nation worst hit by the pandemic, rendering its residents among the least welcomed by overseas destinations and adding to the woes of India’s struggling outbound agents.

Indian travellers have been barred by most countries, including Malaysia which imposed a ban on September 1.

Indian medical staff at City Hospital, a designated Covid-19 centre in Delhi

Outbound travel agents told TTG India that even if the Indian government were to allow scheduled international flights to operate, outbound possibilities would remain low.

K Vijay Mohan, managing director of India’s Holiday World added that the Indian outbound demand was also challenged by tougher travel requirements today. “Thailand will only allow in passengers who stay in the country for a minimum of 30 days, while Indonesia has further delayed her reopening till the year-end,” he elaborated, adding that most Indians would not be travelling overseas any time soon.

Stifled travel demand has forced some Indian outbound travel agents to seek revenue elsewhere, with some turning to the domestic tourism market or looking outside of the travel and tourism industry.

A travel agent, who has requested for anonymity, told TTG India that he is now dealing in household cleaning products which are in great demand today.

“What else is one supposed to do when there is hardly any chance of outbound sentiments improving in the near future?” he rued.

Mohan said: “It is a very challenging time for outbound travel agents who have had no income for the last nine months. Majority of them thought in March that things would open up come September. But now, things are still closed and may remain so for the whole year.

“To make things worse, the central government will be collecting five per cent income tax at source (TCS) from travellers buying an outbound tour package beginning October 1.”

Naveen Manchanda, president of the Indian Association of Travel and Tourism Experts, said: “If the government doesn’t announce a bailout soon, a large number of outbound travel agencies will be wiped out.”

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