Travellers take a wait-and-watch approach as Omicron cases rise globally; residents wary of getting stuck again.
Published: Mon 27 Dec 2021, 9:17 AM
Last updated: Mon 27 Dec 2021, 9:21 AM
Indian expatriates in the UAE are considering putting their vacation plans on hold as various states across India are introducing mandatory quarantine regulations.
The government of Maharashtra announced over the weekend that all international passengers arriving from Dubai would have to undergo seven-day mandatory home quarantine. Similar rules were announced for the South-Indian state of Karnataka and some states have also announced on-arrival RT-PCR testing for all in-bound travellers.
Experts said fresh regulations were issued after the rapid rise in Omicron cases, a variant of the SARS Cov-2 Covid-19 variant, across the globe. Residents fear abrupt changes in travel policies, leading them to get stranded back home, said travel agents.
“The same thing happened last year. Cases rose in India after mid-March last year. When matters got worse, India-UAE flights were completely stopped except for a few categories of travellers. I cannot afford to get stuck in a similar situation this year,” said George Thomas, an Indian accountant living in JLT. He added, “I could lose my job if I get stuck in India again. My family and I had plans to travel to India mid-January. However, now we’ll wait to see how matters evolve in the coming days.”
UAE travel agents operating in the India sector have said exact travel trends would become clearer after the New Year.
Sudheesh TP, general manager, Deira Travel and Tourist Agency told Khaleej Times, “At a federal-level, there are no change in protocols yet. A few passengers who went from here had to undergo random testing at the airport.” He added, “However, changes are being made at a regional level. Transit passengers who originated from certain nations and travelled to India via UAE are being scrutinized upon arrival in India.”
Sudheesh said health authorities at a state-level are on high alert. “These measures are being implemented for safety,” he added.
Agents have said though there was a massive demand for flights back home when schools closed, the demand has dropped over the past few days and weeks. “The rush is for UAE-bound flights. Usually, air ticket prices are three times the usual return fare,” explained Sudheesh.
He said many fear entry restrictions would be introduced and they would not be able to return to their homes in Dubai. “We are noticing only those with a genuine need to travel are the ones who are going home. Vacationers are avoiding the trip,” he said.
Afi Ahmed, managing director Smart Travels, said average one-way ticket prices to many destinations in India are priced at Dh500 to Dh600. “Usually, ticket prices are three times above standard rate. Many fear they could get stranded in case restrictions are announced,” he said.
Ahmed said people are adopting a wait-and-watch approach before finalising their travel plans.
Mir Wasim Raja, manager leisure groups and MICE at Galadari International Travel Services (ITS), said, “People are not confident. People who want to go for short important trips – if the journey is not mandatory – they are not making that travel. Instead, they are looking at vacations abroad.”
He said fewer vacation travellers and families are headed to India at the moment. “Only people with emergency travel plans are going home at the moment. Those who have to go, don’t mind the seven-day quarantine.”
Arun Fernando, chief executive officer at United World Holidays, said most trends related to travel plans would be clear only after New Year’s day. “Most people are exercising caution when it comes to international travels.” He added, “The accurate trends would become clearer only after winter holidays,.”