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With India registering over 50,000 covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, including 200-plus cases of a double mutant variant of the virus, the recovery of the tourism, travel and aviation sectors may be further delayed.

“Hotel and airline bookings on our platform are down by 10-15% in the last 10 days, or so, which can be attributed to the rising number of covid cases and the resulting restrictions imposed by some states," said a senior official of an NCR-based online travel company, seeking anonymity. “Though, this is not a big threat at this moment, the recovery of the sector could be impacted if the number of cases keeps rising."

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For the week ended 20 March, the average number of airline departures fell marginally to 2,288, against 2,294 in the previous week, ICICI Securities said in a recent report. “Rising covid cases remain an overhang on air traffic."

India recorded 53,476 new covid cases in 24 hours, the highest single-day rise since November, taking India’s total case count to over 11.78 million, the Union health ministry said on Thursday.

Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh lead the list of states reporting the biggest single-day surge in fresh infections.

The development comes at a time when search queries for domestic air travel and holidays were on a rise, more after the roll-out of the vaccination drive. “Demand and search queries for air travel are slowly increasing MoM (month-on-month), and domestic travel is on the road to a strong recovery," said Rajnish Kumar, co-founder and chief technology officer of online travel portal ixigo.

Kumar said ixigo witnessed encouraging bookings for the long Holi weekend (27 March -4 April). Top routes, according to ixigo, were New Delhi-Patna, Bengaluru-New Delhi, New Delhi-Goa, Bengaluru-Patna, New Delhi-Bengaluru, Bengaluru-Kolkata, Cochin-Guwahati, New Delhi-Kolkata, and Bengaluru-Guwahati.

“We are seeing a spurt in flight bookings for the Holi holidays, which is mostly the VFR (visiting friends and relatives) traffic. However, leisure travel has been slower to pick up," said a senior official with a Gurugram-based airline, also seeking anonymity.

“The rise in the number of covid-19 cases is a challenge. Although it is not expected to impact the VFR traffic, as people will continue to visit their friends and family during the pandemic, it could delay the improvement in leisure traffic, and impact the overall revival of the sector," he added.

The second wave of covid-19 infections could last up to 100 days from 15 February, said a report by State Bank of India (SBI) on Thursday. “Air travel has slowly inched towards the level it was at in the initial phase of covid-19 in 2020 as visible from the 7-day moving average of total number of flights tracked by Flightradar24, as global case figures tumble and mass vaccination efforts gather speed. However, a plethora of new variants still make a case for being wary about the overall recovery in air travel," said the SBI report authored by group chief economic adviser Soumya Kanti Ghosh.


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