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Government must create pandemic-specific travel refund policy: Survey

File photo. In 2013, more than 1.6 lakh Russian tourists visited Goa, the biggest national group, according Goa Tourism’s official website. Photo: BloombergPremium
File photo. In 2013, more than 1.6 lakh Russian tourists visited Goa, the biggest national group, according Goa Tourism’s official website. Photo: Bloomberg

  • Currently, companies operating flights, trains and hotels have their own set of rules about cancellation of bookings and refunds. Most travel agents or airlines and hotels did not initiate any refunds, and many citizens lost the full amount

NEW DELHI:With only 12-13% of those who cancelled travel bookings due to the second wave of covid-19 getting timely refunds, as many as 90% Indians want the government to formulate a pandemic-specific cancellation refund policy, as per findings of a survey by community social media platform LocalCircles.

About 12% respondents said travel agent/airline accepted cancellation but refunded partial amount and 4% said they got only a small amount as refund. There were also 24% of citizens who said travel agent/airline did not refund anything but rebooked the ticket for a later date.

According to the survey, based over 37,000 responses received from citizens across 359 districts, some travel agents (online and offline), airlines as well as hotels did not initiate any refund with people losing the complete booking amount. As many as 95% of citizens believe that the current policies of the airlines, railways or hotels are not in consumer interest.

"Citizens have regularly been demanding intervention by the Government to come up with travel booking cancellation refund rules as long as the covid pandemic is going on. Many citizens raised the issue about factors beyond their control also coming into play during the pandemic and as a result the only option for them being cancellation of the booking," the survey said.

Citizens via community discussion on LocalCircles suggested a policy could be brought by ministries like civil aviation, tourism, and railways or by the ministry of home affairs under the Disaster Management Act 2005.

Currently, companies operating flights, trains and hotels have their own set of rules about cancellation of bookings and refunds. The survey revealed that most of the travel agents or the airlines and hotels did not initiate any refunds, and many citizens lost the full amount.

Around 21% of citizens said there should be refund within a week with up to 20% value deducted as processing charges while 30% said refund within a month and up to 10% value deducted as processing charges. There were also 21% of citizens saying that there should be no refund but a voucher for the full amount to be used towards future travel within two years.

Meanwhile, the travel sector has seen an uptick in bookings. An earlier report by Mint said many parts of India have holidays in August and September for festivals like Rakhi, Janamashtmi, Independence Day, Onam and Ganesh Chaturthi. This has triggered the desire among people to take up travel and visit friends and family in addition to the pent-up demand for leisure travel during these holidays. Thomas Cook (India) and SOTC also stated that the upcoming festive season is seeing encouraging interest with demand upwards of 35% over last year. Thomas Cook has also launched Durga Pujo specials with deals such as book one-get one free and a free staycation.

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