Coronavirus outbreak puts break on travel companies' recruitment drive

Globally, the aviation and travel sector is counting its losses as the outbreak has forced countries to close borders, suspend visas, and cancel flights.
Travel companies have deferred staff increments and put recruitment on hold, in view of the impact of coronavirus on the tourism sector. 

Bookings for South-East Asia have hit a snag, and travel firms are bracing for further cancellations with the virus now having spread to Europe.  Group tours to Europe begin from April, coinciding with the end of the academic calendar.

Thomas Cook has deferred salary hikes to cut down on expenses. It has informed its employees that the decision was in view of unpredictable market conditions. 

The company did not respond to an email from Business Standard. 

However, in a share buy-back notification last week, it had said that the combined impact of a sluggish economy and difficult trading conditions due to coronavirus had resulted in slowing demand.

Firms are also putting a freeze on hiring and slashing other expenses. “Hiring is on a standstill, except where absolutely essential,” said Amey Amladi, chief operating officer of Akbar Group. “We have postponed all infrastructure upgrades and office improvement works,” said Isha Goyal, director of Stic Travel Group.

Globally, the aviation and travel sector is counting its losses as the outbreak has forced countries to close borders, suspend visas, and cancel flights. 

Last week, the International Air Transport Association had estimated a $30-billion revenue loss for airlines, with Chinese carriers taking the maximum hit. Since then, Italy, South Korea, and Japan have reported a large number of cases, leading to flight cancellations to these countries.

Expedia said it was laying off 3,000 employees globally, beginning with Hong Kong and Singapore. Emirates and Singapore Airlines, too, have announced cost-cutting.

Singapore Airlines is implementing a 5-15 per cent salary cut for employees, including its CEO and senior management, while Emirates is offering voluntary leave without pay. “There are no last-minute cancellations. Fresh bookings are, however, being postponed. We do not have visibility on business for the April-June period,” said the head of a travel company.

Italy is an important destination for Indians. Typically, group tours from India begin from London and end in Rome. “The government has issued an advisory to curb non-essential travel to Italy. As we head towards the peak summer season, we anticipate a drop of 12-15 per cent in bookings,” said Sabina Chopra, co-founder, Yatra.com.

A MakeMyTrip spokesperson said: “There has been a definite slowdown in outbound travel bookings. Travellers are being extremely cautious in making foreign travel plans. Our outbound business stands at 20 per cent of the overall business, which includes South East Asia. We do expect a potential impact if the outbreak spreads westwards. We have not seen any noticeable dip in domestic bookings.”



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