A month and a week after 26/11 brought Mumbai as well as the businesses on which it thrives to a grinding halt,the city is gradually recovering,but its travel business,already hurt by the economic slowdown,refuses to budge forward.
Its been over a month and theres no visible change since the dip. Everybody,from corporate to domestic travellers,are on a cost-cutting spree and are essentially waiting for the first quarter of 2009 to pass, says Vasuki Sundaram,Secretary (Western Region),Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI).
With outbound as well as inbound passenger load factors (PLFs) of airlines too dipping sharply in December as compared to 2007,the travel business has been shrinking,says Sundaram. Usually during this season,we have a lot of people coming in from UK and other European countries,but this year its just not happening, she says.
On the domestic travel front,while the usual holidaymakers for the year-end season have chosen to cut down on their annual trip,travel to popular weekend getaways like Goa has also been hit badly. For the January 26 weekend,theres hardly anybody travelling out of Mumbai,the drop being more than 50%, she adds.
Its been a straight drop of 40-50% for the travel industry. Many agents doing business in the bracket of Rs 4-5 crore just about managed a crore this season, says another TAFI agent who did not wish to be named. Even state government employees who usually take their annual leave travel allowance (LTC) during this season have not taken them, says Sundaram adding theyre generally from middle or upper middle class who do not have a lot of money invested in the stock market.
Individuals are even paying up cancellation charges upfront,with even schools cancelling educational tours. Theyre all waiting for the first quarter to pass and are talking of travelling in the April-May season, she says.
However,for the April-May season,for which bookings start in the current season as well,the response has been equally cold so far.