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Omicron: Mumbaikars rush to cancel car rentals, bus bookings

Updated on: 01 January,2022 07:18 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rajendra B. Aklekar |

New restrictions amid Omicron spread threaten to cripple businesses tied to tourism industry that is already bleeding

Omicron: Mumbaikars rush to cancel car rentals, bus bookings

Operators said a lot of bookings to Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar, Alibaug and Goa are being cancelled. Representation pic

The  new restrictions triggered by the spread of Omicron variant  have led to panic and last-minute cancellations of bookings on tourist buses and private rentals. Train bookings, however, have not reflected any changes yet. “Post-Diwali, the industry was recovering, with business leading to 70 per cent buses on roads as all of them were getting good bookings. The trend continued till last weekend. The crashes began this week with over 80 per cent bookings cancelled now,” Harsh Kotak, secretary of the Mumbai Bus Malak Sangathan said.

“As soon as restrictions are imposed, the first industry that gets affected is tourism which impacts the passenger transportation industry in a big and negative way as bookings get cancelled or postponed and all our calculations go for a toss. Due to this, EMIs and other payments also get disrupted with operators having to bear the losses,” said Astad Khadiwala, a Sangathan committee member.

“We hope the government bails us out. In March 2020, all vehicles went off the road with the announcement of lockdown. Till date, there has been no compensation. The most affected are school and employee transport. The government gave us only a six-month waiver of tax for the period of lockdown when in any case there were no buses on the roads. The cost of fuel, online penalties are all killing our industry,” said Kotak.

The waiver of parking charges during lockdown for buses that are still off the road is yet to be considered, he said. “With the new wave, it seems industry will not be able to sustain.”  Car rental companies said they have been flooded with cancellations. Star Rentals, a company offering special utility vehicles, said several of their group bookings to Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar, Alibaug and Goa were being cancelled. “We have no option, but to refund the amounts. All this is leading to more and more losses,” operator Anshul Parekh said.

Railway officials said cancellations have not caught up with train bookings yet. “So far there are no cancellations of passenger tickets or of trains. We have overflowing waiting list charts with more and more bookings. Being a large public transporter, trains are the last resort and the public falls back on railways for reliability and overall safety,” a senior IRCTC official said.

Percentage of buses that are still off the roads since last year

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