Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and hotels have seen a good occupancy rate for New Year's Eve despite the looming fear of Omicron. However, hotels have cancelled their New Year's Eve parties as a precaution.

BusinessLine spoke to multiple hotel chains, including Accor, IHCL, Pride Group, Sarovar and Lemon Tree.

While some hotels like Pride Group have cancelled New Year’s Eve parties across its hotels, Sarovar said that it has already withdrawn its parties in metro cities governed by state-led norms and restrictions.

Ajay Bakaaya, Managing Director at Sarovar Hotels and Resorts, said that while cancelling parties was a bit of a dampener, it was a responsible move by the government towards curbing the spread of the new covid-19 virus, Omicron.

On the other hand, players like Accor have said that the safety of its guests and staff is priority, and hence, “all events and celebrations at our hotels are being organised as per the rules laid out by local government authorities,” said Puneet Dhawan, Senior VP - Operations, Accor India & South Asia.

Sources at IHCL said that it does not organise New Year’s Eve parties but has a special festive dinner gala. However, the hotel said, “We are following all norms as guided by the local authorities. We have maintained the capacity gap and the time limit.”

SP Jain, Chairman, Pride Hotels, said, “We have decided not to celebrate New Year's Eve. We dropped the idea due to the fear of Omicron. We did not want to take the risk. The crowds can become unmanageable, and our staff will also be at risk. On the other hand, guests might actually decide against joining the event over fears of contracting Covid. Our restaurants, however, will operate at 50 per cent capacity as per the guidelines. We made this decision last night. Most other hotels have already cancelled their plans, and those who have not are cancelling them now.”

Lemon Tree, too, which is largely a business hotel chain, does not organise New Year’s Eve parties, as most of its metro city hotels target business travellers. However, according to Rattan Keswani, Deputy Managing Director, Lemon Tree Hotels, “resorts like our Goa, Manesar and Rishikesh properties usually offer an elaborate, wholesome New Year’s Eve dinner. This year we have simplified the offering. It is heartening that bookings for the New Year weekend at these locations are reasonably robust so far.”

Speaking about occupancies at their hotels, players said there was demand, but it wasn’t up to the mark. Liesure destinations like Udaipur, Jaipur and Goa are witnessing good traction for hotel chains like Accor and IHCL.

“Most of our hotels, especially in leisure destinations such as Udaipur, Jaipur and Goa are witnessing a positive demand. In most key markets, the demand is similar to that of pre-covid levels for the end of the year and the first week of January,” Accor’s Dhawan said.

However, few hotel chains like Lemon Tree and Sarovar have seen a slight dip in hotel bookings. Keswani, said “with the onset of Omicron in India and reduction in air travel, we have seen leisure bookings decline a bit. Lemon Tree is essentially a business hotel brand, and typically over Christmas and New Year there is a dip in business in our metro locations.”

Despite the new virus, online travel agencies (OTA), too, haven’t seen many cancellations. Players like EaseMyTrip, ixigo and Thomas Cook have hardly felt any impact.

“Despite the current scenario, domestic travel demand is still going strong. Current industry travel trends indicate growing consumer confidence in travel driven largely by vaccination drives, pent-up demand, the festive holiday and wedding season. We have recently seen a surge in search queries for popular domestic leisure destinations for year-end travel including Goa, Jaipur, Srinagar and Udaipur,” said Aloke Bajpai, Group CEO & Co-founder, ixigo.

Infact, with limited access to international destinations, Indians are choosing to travel in India itself. For Thomas Cook, this has boosted its domestic business with a 4x surge vs 2020. “There seems no stopping the Indian traveller and we continue to see requests from late/last-minute bookers even with airfares over 50-100 per cent higher and occupancies at an almost sold-out level for favourite domestic locales; staycations are understandably back in demand this year-end,” Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head - Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) said.

Whereas for EaseMyTrip, advance bookings for January and February have also seen a jump of 15 per cent showing a positive sign.

(with inputs from Swaraj Baggonkar)