Home / News / India /  Safety and health on top of Indian  travellers’ minds

Travel plans are in disarray once again as Omicron, a newly detected covid-19 variant, spreads panic across the world. Airline shares have slumped, and the government has dropped its plan to resume scheduled international flights from 15 December. The caution is justified given the experience of a deadly second wave earlier this year.

However, the risks also come as a dampener for travel enthusiasts right ahead of the year-end holiday season. How does it disrupt plans? A survey of Indian consumers by polling firm YouGov found that Indian consumers were getting keener to travel again over the last few months, but were also careful about safety and health concerns. Here’s more:

1. Excitement, disrupted

By October, the gradual retreat of the pandemic in India had helped consumers become readier to consider travelling again, suggests the latest data from YouGov Global Travel Profiles. Around 58% of Indian consumers surveyed planned to go on a domestic trip for either business or leisure purposes, up from 55% in October 2020.

This reflects in domestic airlines data as well. India’s domestic carriers ferried 9 million passengers in October, the most since February 2020, the last full month before India announced a lockdown. However, this is set to take a beating with the Omicron variant forcing new restrictions.

Demand for international travel also saw an uptick, from 24% of consumers planning it in October 2020 to 28% in October 2021, the YouGov data shows. The increased appetite appears to have started from February and peaked in August. YouGov Global Travel Profiles tracks global consumer attitudes towards travel across 25 key markets on a daily basis.

2. Personal vacays

Uniting with friends and family was the top reason why Indian travellers were willing to take holidays, the October survey found. As many as 32% survey respondents said this was the most common type of holiday they went for, a stark reminder of the sense of longing that lockdowns may have created in people.

A quarter of consumers preferred a holiday in the mountains, countryside or at beaches. One in five (19%) said they liked a holiday to explore culture and history, while a good chunk (15%) also liked to go on holidays coupled with activities such as walking, hiking and cycling.

Safety is still a big concern. One-third of the urban respondents chose stay options that are safer with basic services guaranteed, such as standard hotels. As many as 29% would also prefer staying with friends and family on their trips.

Far fewer respondents chose accommodation such as hostels, rented apartments or rented rooms, campsites or cruise ships.

3. Goan appeal

If travel were to open up by plan, where would Indians be headed? Goa emerged as the top preferred destination on YouGov Destination Index, with 37% expressing their wish to visit the state for their next domestic trip. This was followed by Himachal Pradesh (33%) and Uttarakhand (29%). Smaller populations have helped each of these three tourist states fully vaccinate more than half their residents already.

Maharashtra and Kerala, which have consistently been the biggest hotspots of the outbreak, got votes from 27% of the respondents each, as did Delhi and Karnataka.

In the international travel sector, Singapore led the list as the most favoured destination for the next trip (45%), followed by the US and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Many Indian travellers are also inclined to visit destinations near their homeland: around a third or more of respondents said they wanted to go to the Maldives and Bali in Indonesia.

4. Airline buzz

Airlines have been among the sectors most heavily impacted by the pandemic. As restrictions around air travel eased, they slowly started making a comeback, but are now staring at a tough winter.

We get insights on travellers’ airline preferences from YouGov’s BrandIndex, a daily tracker of brand health, based on “buzz scores" that gauge if consumers have heard something positive or negative about a brand in the news, advertisements or while talking to friends and family. The buzz score for low-cost carrier IndiGo increased the most in the past year, from 21.0 in October 2020 to 25.9 in October this year.

Debt-ridden Air India, which recently made news after the Tata Group’s successful bid to buy it, saw a growth of 4.7 points, and remained the airline with the highest score.

GoAir, which is launching its initial public offer this week, has seen the least increase in buzz score among the six key airlines tracked.

5. Safety first

Lastly, a look at the biggest obstacles to travel plans. In October, safety and health risks emerged as the top barriers to travelling, with both factors getting 38% votes each from consumers when asked about the factors preventing them from travelling.

Restrictions around travel were the third biggest barrier (29%), followed by the price of travel (27%). Nearly a quarter of the consumers also said work was keeping them from planning travel. A similar number pointed out an adverse health situation in the family.

The report card of travellers’ perception shows Indians were largely keen to travel by October as long as they felt safe amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The detection of Omicron infections in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Delhi could force travellers to prioritize safety over vacations again. The perceptions are likely to have been affected when the next set of data comes in.

YouGov India is the Indian arm of the global market research firm, YouGov.

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