What does the Omicron variant mean for the travel industry?

4 mins read

Everybody had their hopes up for this year’s festive season and with good reason – the same period in the previous year saw resort occupancy doing surprisingly well, with several hotels having the best December on record. 

Yet the virus has reared one of its many heads, it seems a war of attrition between human and virus, always playing a game of catch-up. 

The Financial Times reports that Europe’s largest tour operator Tui has said fears about the virus have started to affect bookings already. Forward bookings in London, Paris and Madrid have taken a dive last week, the FT reports.

Omicron has also pushed back recovery in international flights “creating delays and headaches” in some regions, reports Reuters. 

The airlines have blamed “a patchwork of shifting rules” for low demand of international travel, says Reuters, with Singapore Airlines budget carrier Scoot’s chief Campbell Wilson stating that they were “all seeing accelerating openings until Omicron.”

“We’ve seen basically a pause since then,” he is quoted as saying in the article.

Japan has banned incoming non-residents while the US requires a COVID-19 test 24 hours before traveling. Meanwhile, travellers in Singapore must be tested daily for seven days upon arrival.

Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the variant is inconclusive on key issues including transmissibility, severity and the effectiveness of vaccines. Meanwhile, the organisation does state that PCR tests are able to detect those infected with the strain. 

Vaccination remains a crucial part of resilience against the effects of the coronavirus and its variants.

The Maldives was expecting a surge in travellers this festive season with top-tier resorts investing heavily in entertainment and F&B. 

In a recent interview with Hotel Insider, the minister of tourism, Abdulla Mausoom, said the Maldives’ geography is its advantage in curbing and containing the spread of the virus.  

“We also received the vaccine much earlier than anticipated and the government prioritised tourism sector employees for vaccination,” said Mausoom. “That was an important contribution along with the good word-of-mouth from the tourists. Also, excellent foreign relations played a key role as well as establishing travel corridors with nearby mega-market India.”

He also expressed his optimism for the coming year.

“You have to consider that right now, we are here without China, which contributed 19 percent to the market, and also Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand,” he said. “We don’t have these markets at the moment. Soon, though, we are going to have new air connections. Mongolian tourists, for instance, are going to start arriving. We are hoping China will open at least by the last quarter of next year. As it is, we’re at the 2019 levels of monthly arrivals. In 2019, we saw 1.7 million tourists. And right now, we’ve almost reached that level without all of these key markets.”

Perhaps there is reason to be cautiously optimistic, especially if travellers see the Maldives as a safe haven from the virus. We hope the Maldives’ will not have to close its borders and can welcome tourists and keep them and its citizens safe from harm.