RED FLAG: Though Omicron risk is high, 58% Indians still have plans to travel in the next 3 months
- ● Only 18% have made their bookings so far, which means many may look for last-minute deals or undertake road travel depending on Omicron and 3rd wave
- ● Of those who plan to travel in Dec-March, 49% plan to visit family/friends, 41% plan to do miscellaneous travel, and 21% are planning holiday travel; some plan to take up multiple types of travel
December 24, 2021, New Delhi: Winter season has commenced in India, and it is that time of the year when holidays take people back home to friends, families and holiday destinations within India and abroad. There has been a steady decline in the daily COVID cases to below 10,000, however, uncertainty over the threat of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant, B.1.1.529, aka omicron, has steadily risen in the last 2 weeks, with major surges experienced worldwide. With Omicron detected in almost 100 countries over the last 4 weeks, India now has over 350 cases of the variant.
India's travel and tourism industry was impacted between April and June due to the brutal Delta variant-led 2nd COVID wave when many families had to cancel their summer travel plans amid the drastic surge of cases. Then as the country entered into unlocking the economy after the outbreak, an exercise conducted by LocalCircles found out that 28% of citizens had made plans to travel during August and September. Similarly, October-November also saw busy airports, flights and trains with a lot of people traveling during the festive season. To understand what people’s travel plans are for the next 3 months through March 2022, LocalCircles has conducted another survey which received more than 19,500 responses from citizens residing in 320 districts of India. 66% respondents were men while 34% respondents were women. 45% respondents were from tier 1, 28% from tier 2, and 27% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.
58% citizens planning to travel during December-March though only 18% have made their bookings
With children getting almost a 15-day winter break in most parts of the country followed by another break in March, this is the time when many families travel. Many also take their annual break to holiday destinations. As many people look forward to travelling during the December-March period, the first question in the survey sought to know about their current plan to travel in the next 3 months. In response, 18% of citizens said they “have plans and have booked tickets, stay”, 15% “have plans to travel during these 3 months but have not booked tickets and stay yet”, 22% “have plans to travel during these 3 months but have not booked tickets and stay yet and will only decide close to travel date”. There were also 32% of citizens who “have no plans to travel during these 3 months”, and 10% are undecided or couldn’t say. On an aggregate basis, 58% of citizens are planning to travel from December to March though only 18% have made their bookings. This question in the survey received 9,890 responses. It must be noted that these travel modes of transportation include air, rail and road.
Enthusiasm for travel while Omicron is on horizon higher than what it was before Delta and 2nd wave
As the country was entering into the 2nd wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, a similar exercise was conducted by LocalCircles in March 2021 to understand the travel plan of citizens and had found out that only 50% of citizens back then had plans to travel. 9 months post that, after the 2nd wave of the outbreak, a decline in daily caseloads, along with India’s mega vaccination drive, 58% of people currently have plans to travel in the next 3 months despite the imminent threat of Omicron on the horizon. This is an extremely worrying situation because if this travel happens as per plan the 3rd wave will likely be significant.
Of those who plan to travel in the next 3 months, highest number likely to visit family/friends and undertake other miscellaneous travel (non-holiday destination travel)
During the winter holiday season from December to March, many plans to travel to various holiday and tourist destinations and many visit families and friends. The next question in the survey asked citizens the kinds of personal travel they plan to undertake in the next 90 days? In response, 11% of citizens said “(1) holiday destination”, 29% said “(2) visit family and friends” and 29% are planning “(3) other travel”. Breaking down the poll, 7% of citizens surveyed plan to undertake “1 & 2” type of personal travels from the aforementioned options. Another 13% will undertake “2 & 3”, and 3% said “1 & 3” kinds of personal travel. 8% of citizens couldn’t say. The findings of the survey indicate that of those who plan to travel in the next 3 months, the highest number are likely to visit family/friends and undertake other miscellaneous travel or non-holiday destination travel. This question in the survey received 9,851 responses.
Visiting family/friends and other miscellaneous travel on top of people’s list as compared to visiting holiday destination in the next 3 months
When responses given by citizens are aggregated on the basis of types of personal travel, as some plan to undertake multiple types of travel, it was found out that 49% plan to “visit family and friends”, 45% will visit a “holiday destination”, and 21% will undertake “other kinds of travel” like religious travel, pending works, etc.
In summary, 58% of citizens plan to travel from December to March despite surging cases in India. The good thing is that while such a large number of people have travel plans, only 18% have made their bookings so far. Of those who plan to travel in the next 90 days, the highest number i.e., 49% are likely to visit family, friends and also undertake other miscellaneous travel while 21% have plans to travel to a holiday destination. A comparative analysis of the latest survey with the survey in March 2021 found that the enthusiasm level of citizens to travel despite omicron threat on the horizon, is higher than what it was before Delta and 2nd wave.
The Government last week recommended limiting all non-essential travel till the time the risk of Omicron greatly reduces. While 18% have already made bookings, the Government must ensure that as the risk rises in different parts of the country, travel restrictions are put in place and airlines and hotels are advised to permit rescheduling without penalties. The other extremely important aspect is need for strict compliance to mask and social distancing protocols. In the December LocalCircles survey, while 1 in 3 indicated mask compliance during travel was effective, people clearly indicated that the social distancing compliance was non-existent. If travel is to continue, it is an absolute must that Central and State Governments, and various authorities enforce this compliance on the ground. With Omicron found to be 3-5X more transmissible than the Delta variant, things can get out of hand very quickly if the restrictions and enforcement is not paid attention to.
As always, LocalCircles will be submitting the findings of this survey with Central Government and State Governments so they are all aware of the on-ground situation in regard to people’s travel plans, impose restrictions a situation demands based on the rise of Omicron and act on sensitization and enforcement of mask and social distancing compliance, and keep a very close eye on daily case-loads, for India cannot afford a 3rd massive COVID wave.
The survey received more than 19,500 responses from citizens residing in 320 districts of India. 66% respondents were men while 34% respondents were women. 45% respondents were from tier 1, 28% from tier 2, and 27% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform, and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.