Chennai

COVID-19: Chennaiites put visits to cold places in the north on hold

Airport sources estimate a dip of at least 20% in passenger traffic. The number of passengers travelling from the city to the Far East, Middle East and even Europe has come down this last month, said airline and travel agents

Airport sources estimate a dip of at least 20% in passenger traffic. The number of passengers travelling from the city to the Far East, Middle East and even Europe has come down this last month, said airline and travel agents   | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

With the government advising precautions in travel as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, a number of people have reportedly been cancelling their travel plans. With health advisories asking people to avoid crowded places, people are avoiding going to even holy places within the country, especially destinations in the north.

R. Anand, Travel India, said that though the season for visits to Kailash Mansarovar has begun, travellers are worried since it is a cold place. “We have been advised to wait till May to arrange the trip. I have not submitted tge passports of over 20 persons for the trip. Hoteliers in places like Haridwar are informing us that they will not allow people from affected countries. Similarly, people don’t seem to want to visit places like Simla and Darjeeling,” he said.

Fathima Muzaffar, CEO, Millath Haj Services said that many of their clients were avoiding visits to crowded places and even Haj pilgrimages, since the United Arab Emirates has also recorded cases. “Even those who had planned to visit other important religious sites are cancelling tickets. They don’t want to visit places that are high risk,” she said adding that for Haj, airlines have asked people to either reissue tickets or take refunds.

No impact on buses and railways

However, the scare has not had any impact on buses and railways. A senior official of the State Transport department said the passenger population in the State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) has not seen any reduction and has been maintaining an average of more than 65,000 passengers per day.

He said that normally passenger movement would be lower during March-April due to examinations. Officials in the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation and Kerala State Transport Corporation too said examinations were the reason for low passenger traffic this season.

D. Maran, treasurer, Tamil Nadu Omni bus owners association, said that as on date, trips to Kerala or Hyderabad have not been affected. Around 600 Omni buses are operated from Chennai to various districts and to other States every day. Close to 400 people travel to Kerala daily and around 1,000 to Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. “We are planning to have hand santizers in the bus and also paste notices on safety precautions,” he said.

Officials in Southern Railway too said they have not witnessed any panic cancellations this past month. “Our 420 long distance trains have not seen any dip in the number of travellers. We plan to create awareness regarding the preventive measures to be followed by the public through posters and announcements over the public address system,” said a senior official.

International travel takes a beating

Airport sources estimate a dip of at least 20% in passenger traffic. The number of passengers travelling from the city to the Far East, Middle East and even Europe has come down this last month, said airline and travel agents. “We see about 50% drop in the number of people flying the past month. The panic is so bad that a few people tell us that they are scared to eat or touch anything in the aircraft. We don’t know how long this is going to last,” an official of a leading international airline said.

Usually, this is the peak time for travel when hundreds of people make plans for vacations in the next few months. “Now they wouldn’t want to take their children and go to either tge Far East, Middle East or Europe; that leaves them with other options such as Sri Lanka, Maldives or US,” he said.

M.K. Ajit Kumar of Asia Pacific Tours said both inbound and outbound passenger traffic have been affected. “Because of all this fear, there are many who will look for options for holidays within India,” he added.

City-based hoteliers said that they have seen major drop in bookings and cancellations in January and February. “We were to get people from Italy and Germany on business trips but they have cancelled,” said a hotelier.

(Reporting by Vivek Narayanan, R. Srikanth, Sunitha Sekar, Deepa H. Ramakrishnan)

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 11:24:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/covid-19-chennaiites-put-visits-to-cold-places-in-the-north-on-hold/article31001074.ece

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