The travel and tourism sector in cyclone Fani hit Odisha is expected to bounce back in another 30 days with travel and tour operators optimist that travel and stay can be arranged for people travelling to Puri and other parts of the state a fortnight onwards. Operators, however, have advised travelers not to venture into Odisha in the coming few days.
“I think within a month the travel and hospitality sector will normalize to a great extent in Odisha while we can send people wishing to visit there in the next 14 days”, Anil Panjabi, chairman of the Kolkata chapter of Travel Agents' Federation of India (TAFI) told Business Standard.
Panjabi is anticipating that while hotels, particularly in Puri, would have taken hit in the infrastructure, the recovery can be rushed owing to the holiday season which has set in early.
Summer holidays in east India has begun early and even the West Bengal government has declared an early summer holiday for the schools.
“There is going to be a big rush in the coming days and many people would want to go to Puri and other part of Odisha. I think the hotels there would not like to forego the holiday season and thus recovery and reinstallation of the necessary infrastructure and tourist facilities will be fast tracked”, Panjabi, who is also the director at Ar-Es Travels, told this newspaper.
However, currently, travel and tour operators are advising against ant travel to Odisha which bore the brunt of Fani.
In a statement, Daniel D’souza, president and country head – leisure at SOTC Travel, said, “We are in touch with our passengers and have taken necessary steps to keep our travellers safe. Our teams are monitoring the situation very closely. With the recent disruption caused by the cyclone, customers who are planning on visiting Odisha, especially Puri, are being advised to opt for other destinations. Those being impacted due to the Kolkata airport closure, we have made alternate arrangements for all our customers who were either travelling onward to Europe or arriving into Kolkata from Hong Kong and Bhutan”.
According to Panjabi, the loss to the tourism sector in Odisha at the moment cannot be calculated or estimated as direct communications to Puri and other parts of Odisha are severed owing to Fani’s landfall on Friday morning in that state.
“By Monday, we can have a clearer picture on the estimated losses. But had this cyclone come a week later, the losses would have been three-fold as the peak summer tourist season would have started”, he told this business daily.
Rajeev Kale, president and country head – holiday, MICE, visa at Thomas Cook (India), said, “We have been in constant touch with our customers who are all safe and accounted for, and we continue to closely monitor the on-ground situation with our local teams and partners. It is early days yet to assess impact and with the Kolkata airport reopened and flights returning to normalcy, we are assisting our customers as best possible under the current scenario and hope to have our scheduled tours back on track with minimal changes.”
Anticipating the threat from Fani, the Bhubaneswar airport had closed operations from midnight of May 3 but resumed services the next day in the afternoon. The Kolkata airport too had shut down from 3:00 pm on May 3 to 8:00 am on May 4. Over 200 flights were cancelled on account of the shutdown at the airports.
On the other hand, the railways also cancelled over 225 trains and diverted the route of several others which would be plying through coastal Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
Panjabi estimates that the loss to the travel and hospitality sector in Kolkata to have been to the tune of Rs. 1 crore owing to flight cancellations and people shortening their stay in Kolkata hotels.
However, flight operations have resumed in the Kolkata airport after Fani crossed southern West Bengal in during Saturday dawn.
An airport official said that Air India’s fight AI 743 to Agartala at 9:57 a.m. was the first departure from this airport while Go Air’s flight from Delhi to Kolkata landed in the Kolkata airport at 10:10 a.m.
In a tweet, Air India said, “Air India has announced Additional flight for Passengers stranded due to #CycloneStormFANI. Today Delhi-Bhubaneswar at 1500hrs and Bhubaneswar-Delhi at 1745hrs. Passengers holding valid Air India tickets may please reach the Airport”.
The national carrier is also shipping relief materials and supplies to Odisha.
The civil aviation ministry, in a statement, said that although the Bhubaneswar airport has suffered considerable damage to its infrastructure owing to the cyclone, commercial flight operations resumed from 1:00 p.m.