Covid: Global travel eliminates Covid baggage as several countries ease restrictions for Indians

Want to skydive from a helicopter on the Gold Coast? Or would you like to see the facilities of the Museum of Underwater Art open during the pandemic on the Great Barrier Reef? Better yet, do you want to support the Indian team later in the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup?

You may have plenty of company if Covid-19 cases continue on their downward trajectory. Several countries have eased restrictions for Indian travelers, detecting pent-up demand and a substantial drop in coronavirus cases.

The Australian High Commission said on Friday the filing of Indian visitor visas was back to 2019 levels. The country has reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers – first allowing students, parents and migrants, and now all visitors – from 21 February.

“Australia is open for business and for tourists. So come Down (Under),” Chris Waters, Minister Counselor for Southeast Asia, Department of Home Affairs at the Australian High Commission, said in his speech.

“We see a large number of Indian students coming to Australia,” he said. “Some are going back to school and others for the very first time.”

ET office

Boost to travel and tourism

“We hope that now that the borders have reopened, we will see India move higher and higher in the rankings,” said Waters from the Australian High Commission. “The ICC T20 Cricket World Cup returns to Australia at the end of this year. We expect a lot of Indians to come and watch.

Although India has yet to resume regular international commercial flights, the easing of restrictions for Indian travelers has raised hopes for a better summer for travel agencies and tour operators.

Pranav Sinha, head of South Asia at visa processing firm VFS Global, believes the travel outlook remains volatile due to geopolitical risks and potential new variants of Covid-19. But, he said, the easing of travel restrictions, as well as demand in India – a key source market for international travel – signal an increase in volumes this summer.

“The UK, several Schengen members, Thailand and Japan have eased restrictions in recent weeks,” he said. “Therefore, we expect an increase in outbound travel this year, especially from India.”

According to VFS Global updates as of March 2, France, Italy, UK, Ireland, Lebanon, Morocco, Norway, Austria, Belgium, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (Dubai Visa Processing Centre) and South Africa are open for applications under all visa categories.

Incentive trips

Neliswa Nkani, hub manager for India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia at South African Tourism, said business partners in the country say intent to visit, as well as conversions, are increasing regularly.

“We are processing tourist visas as a priority to support travel,” she said. “We are also aware of the need for value driven routes and are taking bullish steps to ensure that every rupee spent delivers maximum return. By engaging with airlines on subsidized fares for the Indian market, we seek to significantly reduce the cost of travel.

She expects these efforts to increase summer traffic to South Africa and help the recovery of tourism sectors in both countries. There are currently no restrictions in South Africa, apart from basic post-pandemic protocols such as wearing masks and reasonable social distancing.

Indiver Rastogi, president and group head for global business travel at Thomas Cook (India) and SOTC, said there was a significant increase in demand with the relaxation of travel and health protocols, led by Western Europe (Switzerland, France, Spain), triggering a fourfold increase in the number of requests compared to last year.

“We expect further momentum with the latest positive announcement from France,” he said. “With the relaxation of RT-PCR rules, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are also seeing a 40-50% growth in interest, compared to the same period last year. Turkey and Egypt are up 40% and the US 100% (for customers with valid visas). »

“Short-haul destinations in particular are expected to see maximum growth, and we’re already seeing a strong pipeline for Thailand, with queries up 2x per week since the announcement,” Rastogi said. A spokesperson for MakeMyTrip said that with more countries starting to reopen their borders for Indian travelers after a two-year gap, it’s “safe” to say that pent-up demand for international travel will mainly drive bookings in the coming months. “Current data patterns on the platform indicate that 96% of searches are for the upcoming summer holiday season, with Dubai, Thailand, Maldives, Sri Lanka, London, Paris and Amsterdam ranking high on the list. international destinations,” the spokesperson said. added.

Term reservations in the United States

The United States is open to all fully immunized Indian travelers. Proof of vaccination status as well as a negative Covid-19 test must be presented before boarding.

Given the high frequency of flights and the “abundant” seat capacity between India and the United States, the market is already seeing advance bookings from India, said Seema Kadam, director regional for India at the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.

Before the pandemic disruptions, India was one of the fastest growing international markets for visitors to Los Angeles. In 2019, 135,000 Indians visited Los Angeles, injecting $301 million in visitor spending into the local economy.

“With our borders open, we hope to see an increase in arrivals in 2022,” Kadam said. “There are more lodging options than ever, with many new hotels opening in the past year, including the iconic Fairmont Century Plaza as well as a host of boutique properties in the downtown area. city ​​of Los Angeles and Hollywood.”