Booked summer travel may pose major risk to massive Covid surge

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By Sanjeev Sharma
New Delhi, April 13 |
In a major red flag, 25 per cent citizens with booked summer travel may pose major risk to India’s already massive second Covid surge.

As per a survey by Local Circles, though some have put their travel plans on hold, those who have booked may likely travel unless airlines, hotels, travel portals/agents accept cancellations and refund money.

Many had made their bookings in months of February and March this year after no travel for over a year

The findings of the survey indicated that 50 per cent of citizens still plan to travel during April – June 2021.

Since many of them have already booked their travel and are unable to cancel unless service providers like airlines, hotels travel portals and agents co-operate, the risk of Covid further worsening in India is significant.

While state/district level lockdowns will lead to some restrictions and cancellations and some more people may cancel their travel given the rise in cases, a sizable percentage may still proceed with their travel plans.

The survey said the Central and State Governments must carefully study these inputs and bookings data for flights, hotels, trains and buses and take necessary action so either such travel is restricted and whatever is permitted is only after following Covid protocols of testing, mask, social distancing and hygiene such that this travel does not further worsen the deteriorating Covid situation the country is currently experiencing.

Having no idea of what was about to unfold, many Indians, after being restricted to their homes for a year, started their travel planning for summer in February and March this year.

LocalCircles decided to conduct another survey in the last three days of March to understand how the rising caseloads had impacted people’s travel plans. The survey received more than 25,000 responses from citizens located in 305 districts of India.

As per the survey, 50 per cent citizens plan to travel during the next 3 months. The first question in the survey sought to understand what kind of travel citizens plan to undertake in the next 3 months of the summer season from April to June. In response, 17 per cent said “Holiday destination”, 24 per cent said “visit family and friends”, and 9 per cent said “plan to do both of the above”. The majority of 45 per cent of citizens said that they “will not be travelling, and would be staying home”. There were also 5 per cent of citizens who voted for “can’t say”, which suggested that they haven’t made up any plans whether to travel or not in the next 3 months. The aggregate responses from citizens surveyed indicate that 50 per cent of citizens plan to travel during the 3 months of April-June 2021.

Given the rise in Covid cases, with the national daily caseload going up by 10 times in the last one month, people taking road travel, flights, or trains could cause significant deterioration to the already grim Covid situation in India.

The survey found that with Covid second wave, though some citizens put their summer travel plan on hold, 50 per cent still plan to travel.

The comparative findings of the two surveys indicate that though some citizens have put their summer travel plans on hold, a whopping 50 per cent still plan to travel.

While summer travel may mean taking a flight and train/rental cars for the upper middle class or middle-class families either seeing family/friends or visiting a holiday destination, many will be frequently travelling by sleeper class in trains or taking a bus to see their parents or grandparents.

38 per cent of those who were planning to book summer travel are likely to put their plans on hold, the survey said.

The following question sought to understand from citizens who are planning to travel this summer if they have made any bookings. In response, 25 per cent said “Yes, booked already”, while 12 per cent of citizens said “Not booked yet but will book soon”. There were also 25 per cent of citizens voting for “will do last minute and no need to book” and 38 per cent said “had plans to book but putting it on hold for the time being”. The findings of the poll indicate that 38 per cent of those who were planning to book summer travel are likely to put their plans on hold.

As per the survey majority of travellers who had not booked their summer travel have put their plans on hold; those who have booked, plan to travel.

Similarly, if we are to comparatively look into travel booking plans of citizens, the percentage of citizens who voted for “had plans to book but putting it on hold for the time being” has increased from nil in the February survey to 38 per cent in the latest survey. This suggests that given the rise in the Covid cases across the country, some have put a hold on their travel plans.

However, the percentage of citizens saying they have “booked already” has increased from 20 per cent to 25 per cent. Breaking down the poll, citizens who voted for “Not booked yet but will book soon” has decreased from 37 per cent to 12 per cent, while citizens who voted for “will do last minute and no need to book” has also decreased from 43 per cent to 25 per cent.

Thus, the findings indicated that the majority of travellers who had not booked their summer travel have put their plans on hold. However, those who have booked, still plan to travel.

This is again a major area of concern given the rapid rise in Covid cases in India in the last 30 days, and if 25 per cent of Indians do proceed with their travel plans during summer, it could be extremely difficult to contain Covid in India

The survey found that flights and roads to be the most preferred mode of travel during this summer.

The final question in the survey sought to understand what will be the primary mode for citizens to travel this summer, 30 per cent said “flights”, 4 per cent said “trains”, 24 per cent said “car, taxi or bus”, 4 per cent said “flight and train”, 20 per cent said “flight and car or taxi, or bus”, and 13 per cent said “can’t say”. The poll findings indicate that flights and roads will be the most preferred mode of travel during this summer.

More citizens planning travel this summer changed their mode from railways and road to flights in the last one month.

Evaluating the comparative findings of the February and March 2021 surveys to the poll question that asked primary mode of travel this summer, it was found out that the percentage of citizens who voted for “flights” has increased from 23 per cent in February to 30 per cent in March. Breaking down the poll, citizens voting for “trains” have decreased from 13 per cent to 4 per cent, while those voting for “car, taxi or bus” have increased from 18 per cent to 24 per cent. The findings of the poll have indicated that more citizens planning to travel this summer have changed their mode from railways and road to flights in the last one month.

(Sanjeev Sharma can be reached at sanjeev.s@ians.in)

Source: IANS

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