Virus spread takes travellers to Europe by surprise

V Rishi Kumar/ Garima Singh Hyderabad | Updated on March 19, 2020

A sudden spurt in the number of coronavirus cases between January and February has caught most Indians travellers — both holidayers and those engaged in business — to Europe, particularly to Italy, unawares.

Italy is among the worst affected countries and some of the positive cases in India have a travel history with that country. Majority of Indians who go to Italy are either tourists or who have travelled for business and trade or for higher education.

“The percentage of Indians who go to Italy for tourism activities as well as for business is almost the same. Tourism (40 per cent), business (40 per cent) account for almost 80 per cent of travel from India to Italy and the remaining are students who go for higher education,” said Subhash Goyal, Chairman, STIC Travel Group and Chairman of Assocham National Council on Tourism and Hospitality.

For tourists, Rome, Venice, and Florence are the most-sought-after destinations while Milan is the among the top pick for the business activities. As per the travel advisory issued on March 10, Indian citizens are advised to avoid non-essential travel abroad and refrain from travelling to countries such as China, Italy, and Iran.

Stranded abroad

“Most of the visitors, before they could realise the impact of the virus, were stuck in several European countries, particularly Italy, where they were forced to stay longer, possibly five-six nights,” said P Sudhakar Rao, Director of Rao Travels, a Hyderabad-based travel agency, operating out of several cities.

“Those who were impacted by the virus attack and its aftermath of travel curbs and visa restrictions include holidayers who went on Schengen visas; those who landed in Italy taking the cruise and rail route; business visitors and even people with work permits,” he said. B JP Reddy of JP Projects, said, “Most Indians who are stuck in Italy are students pursuing a variety of advanced engineering and design courses in Milan, followed by businessmen, particularly from the food, automobiles, industrial equipment and machinery as well as personal care product industries,”

A number of businessmen, architects and families also visit Italy to place orders for luxury furniture, customised lightings and artefacts, and sanitaryware.

“I was planning to travel to Milan in April 2020 to procure furniture for my business associate, owner of an industrial equipment company,” said Reddy, but Artioli Vittorio of Vimatek in Italy, cautioned saying, “Do not even think of coming to Italy as we are all facing a dreadful lockdown. It is a totally new and terrifying time for us.”

Published on March 19, 2020

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