NGTI Travel Survey | “It feels like World War Z”

In the light of the coronavirus pandemic, an NGTI reader survey reveals that Indian travellers have put holidays on hold and are staring into an uncertain future.  
Coronavirus in India
Photo by: Nasir Kachroo/ NurPhoto/ Getty Images

In any other year, summer would be a time for globetrotting. But since the alarming escalation of the novel coronavirus pandemic early this year, foreign travel has nosedived dramatically. By some estimates, the worldwide tourism industry has suffered unprecedented losses, with a drop in tourists of almost 25%. For many Indians, March is typically the season for charting out their dream trips to Europe or America. However, with over 80 positive cases in the country at the time of writing, that is unfortunately, no longer the case. The Indian traveller is currently in limbo, as NGTI found out in an online survey of its readers conducted this month. As part of the survey, over 350 respondents were quizzed about how the coronavirus pandemic adversely affected their travel plans and what was their mood looking ahead to the 2020 travel calendar.

72% of the respondents had planned summer trips mostly to Europe, or South East Asia. And almost all of them cancelled their holidays with the explosion of COVID-19 cases across the globe. “We had even booked our internal flights in Philippines; it’s a holiday we had been planning since last October. We would have gone, but our friends and family insisted we cancel,” says Renata Millet of her trip. Others, too, put similarly once-in-a-lifetime trips on hold. Respondents have axed travel for a Green Day concert in Bangkok, a Japanese holiday in time for the Olympics and bucket list expeditions to Norway. Many travellers also deferred local travel plans; with Rajasthan and Kerala being a major cause for concern.

For the most part, respondents have adhered to travel advisories issued by governments. “We have no future travel plans,” says Ananya Bahl, one of NGTI’s regular correspondents, “we don’t know the travel histories of people we are travelling with at transit airports and the last thing I want to do is be a conduit to infect near and dear ones on my return plus infect a place that was coronavirus-free. Also, I don’t want to risk being quarantined in a foreign country.” In India citizens have been advised to defer all non-essential travel, and many states including Maharashtra have declared COVID-19 an epidemic. The hope is that summer will offer respite, but travellers don’t see the situation improving for at least the next six months, according to NGTI’s survey.

Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Thailand, Japan—all destinations that people normally flock to are now on their travel ban list. “When I travel again, it will be to a place where medical infrastructure is strong, and the government prompt in containment,” writes Gaurav Verma. Coronavirus has certainly changed the way people are thinking about travel. The tourism industry has definitely taken a hit, with cancelled air routes and hotel bookings, and shutdown of borders; the loss is in trillions of dollars.

“It feels like we’re living in World War Z,” says Neerja Jaiswal, who has already cancelled her Germany plans for May, and is sceptic about visiting Ibiza in September for her best friend’s wedding. Nerissa Almeida, who cancelled her backpacking trip through Japan, adds “I would prefer to stay home right now.”    

  • Lubna Amir is Assistant Digital Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She travels in the search for happy places (which invariably involve a beach) and good food. When she’s not planning her next escape, you can find her curled up with a book or researching recipes.

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