While low cost airline Indigo has suspended its daily flight services to Guangzhou from Kolkata already, China Eastern Airlines, the only other direct flight operators from Kolkata to Kunming (capital of Yunan province) is planning to operate four-day flight services from 11 February instead of every day due to lack of passengers as people are cancelling their travel plans to China fearing the global contagion of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Both Indigo and China Eastern Airlines have a seating capacity of 150 to 180 passengers on their daily direct flights from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata. While the China Eastern Airlines’ flight services had started around 13 years ago, Indigo commenced direct flight services from Kolkata to China since late last year.

The situation in China became grimmer today due to biggest single day jump of the death toll due to the outbreak of the deadly corona virus, which has risen to 170. “Most of the tourists who had booked their tour plans for China have cancelled their bookings as the advisory issued by the government has asked people to avoid travelling to China due to the alarming situation there. Also we cannot take risks with the lives of our clients. Those who are still unwilling to cancel their trips fearing financial losses have been asked to defer their tour plans and everything has been put on hold,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east) of Travel Agents’ Federation of India.

“Every month around 4,000 people travel to China from Kolkata. They are mostly students, business travellers on official tours and also leisure tourists. But the peak period of tourism in China are May to July and October to December,” he added. Punjabi further added that at the time of the virus outbreak most Indian tourists were not in China due to the closure of shops because of Chinese New Year.

Tourism to Hong Kong and Thailand, among others, has also been hit. “In fact, tourists are scared to visit the far-east and south eastern countries at present and have adopted a wait and watch policy. The present trend shows that it is further slowing down,” he added.

He also informed that since the past few years there has been a consistent growth of about 10 to 15 per cent passengers to China from sectors like education, business, travel and tourism Echoing the views of Mr. Punjabi, Travel Agents Association of Bengal representative Nilanjan Basu said, “This is an unprecedented situation as vast majority of travellers have cancelled their trips to China. It has come as a jolt for the tour operators and the government advisory urging people to refrain from travelling there has created a negative impact. Both the travellers and the tour operators will incur huge financial losses due to the cancellations. Those few who are still waiting might reschedule their trips elsewhere.”

Many travel enthusiasts are now keeping their fingers crossed and adopted a wait and watch policy. “Nearly all bookings stand cancelled right now and city tour operators have either deferred or cancelled the trips as there are no takers for China trips right now. A significant section of them are waiting for the condition to improve,” said Kamal Gupta, a member of Association of Tourism Service Provider of Bengal.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare has issued self-reporting form to be filled up by each and every passenger entering the country from 2019 in CoV affected countries to be submitted at the health and immigration centres. It has also issued travel advisories to Indians visiting China and has suggested that every non-essential visit to China should be avoided at present.