Ajit JohnThe government has set in place rules and regulations to govern the movement of passengers from Europe in light of the emergence of the Omicron variant. It was one of the demands made by members of the hospitality industry in the state. This they claimed would help them understand the rules that needed to be followed in order to ensure visitors could come in.According to the rules and regulation to combat Omicron, all international travellers arriving in India will be required to fill a self-declaration form (SDF) and share a copy of their negative RT-PCR test report taken 72 hours prior with the airlines before boarding the aircraft. Passengers originating or transiting from at-risk countries shall be informed by the airlines that they will undergo post-arrival testing, quarantine if tested negative, stringent isolation protocols if tested positive. According to an updated list, the countries designated as 'at-risk' are the European countries, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel. Passengers will have to undergo a RT-PCR test at the point of arrival (self-paid). If negative, passengers can depart the airport but undergo home isolation for seven days, followed by repeat testing on the eighth day of arrival in India, followed by seven days of self-monitoring. If they test positive, the passengers will be isolated as per clinical management protocol and their samples will be taken for Whole Genome Sequencing. Travellers from countries excluding those ‘Countries at risk’ will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days' post-arrival. For charter operators it was a mixed bag. Sheikh Ismail, general manager, Concord Travels & Tours, said he would like to wait for a couple of days in order to check with the ministry. He said “Our operators abroad are a bit confused. They would like a letter from our side stating that tourists from Russia will not be quarantined. They bring around 522 tourists on each flight and they don’t want their passengers to experience any discomfort. We are getting bookings from Russia and I feel these rules will not affect business. It is just that there is some confusion. We will send them that guarantee letter stating that they don’t have to go to quarantine. I am thankful the government did not place Russia or any other CIS country on the list.” Abida Kumar VP Operations of Minar Travels said it was good Russia and Kazakhistan were not on the list. With regards to the UK, it made no sense for them to come down because as a at risk nation travellers from that country would have to go into quarantine which would negate the very purpose of coming down on a holiday. She said business could be expected from Russia and Kazakhistan and that was in itself great news. She also revealed that according to her sources there was a strong possibility the UK could go under lockdown again in December. Serrafin Cotta who heads the medium and small hotel association felt the English would certainly react to this because he said they would not appreciate the fact that a distinction had been made between them and the Russians. He said “A large number of them come on short holidays, those who come on a long stay and they might not mind the quarantine. They would not mind staying by themselves sitting on the balcony reading their book. This is of course unlike the Russians who like to move around. Let’s see what happens during the season. Yes, the domestic tourists will be here so yes business will happen but the foreign guests bring something different to the business”. Nilesh Shah the President of TTAG said he was ok with the rest because it was important to guarantee the safety of everyone. He said “It was important to follow all the WHO guidelines. But I will say this talk of quarantine even after testing negative will have a negative effect on tourism. I personally feel it is an evolving situation and I think in a couple of days the guidelines may change. I hope something works out for the UK. Like I said, a test is fine but a quarantine is a bit too far.” Padma Nair who runs a small hotel in Calangute said he was very concerned about the fact that English would be affected. He said “A large number of our international tourists are from the UK and Russia. We expected the Russians to start coming in from December 15 and now the situation is dicey again. Yes we get the domestic tourists but they are here in great numbers over the weekend. And yes, there is a great deal of undercutting that is taking place amongst the hotels on the beach front which makes it very difficult. Let's see how it all works out.”
One can only hope it all works out fine for the industry.