FILE PHOTO: The main entrance of the Piarco International Airport.
Despite a new strain of the covid19 virus – omicron – emerging, travel agencies say a considerable number of people have been booking tickets for international and regional travel over the holidays.
Samantha Persad-Harracksingh, owner of Sam’s Travel in La Romaine, said in November people have been booking family trips mainly to Tobago, New York, Miami, and London.
The flights to Caribbean destinations, including Guyana, have been corporate, and were for shorter periods, such as a few days, when compared to the international bookings, which spanned weeks, she said.
“Flights have increased. Tobago bookings have increased significantly.”
But, she said, “Compared to the years prior, business has been gloomy and even though people are travelling, they’ve expressed concern about covid19 and the new variant.
“After a year, the borders were reopened, and it was expected that business would return to its full operations.
“The hit I took, like many other agencies, (was through) giving refunds, giving credit notes, and working extra without any remuneration for that,” Persad-Harracksingh said.
She added that after Divali, business started to pick up, with flights to Tobago, even though the beaches were closed.
Persad-Harracksingh said does not think the trend will continue and anticipated the majority of bookings would be corporate-related and not for recreation.
She explained, “For the major holidays or recreational events that would have happened, like Carnival, bookings have definitely decreased.
“Ticket prices vary. The average starting price for a return ticket to Miami is US$300 and to go other areas would be more. We find people purchasing these more rather than to go to a Caribbean island because it is cheaper.”
Persad-Harracksingh noted that it was difficult for large families to travel after enquiring about her agency’s various packages, because the added personal costs of PCR tests were too much.
“If a family of four is travelling, that is almost an additional $4,800, excluding plane tickets, and ground transport. Hopefully, medical institutions can reduce the cost of the PCR test, not just for people who are travelling, but generally, because it is a lot for anyone to pay under any circumstance,” she said
A sales representative at Krystal Tour Vacations said flights to New York, Toronto and Miami were sold out for Christmas into the new year.
“People also grabbed our packages to the Caribbean, Panama, and Cancun. There were also a lot of bookings from New York, Toronto and Miami to Trinidad and Tobago.”
At a travel agency in Chaguanas, a sales representative who also wanted to remain anonymous said with the new covid19 strain and the fluctuation in prices, the bookings were not like previous years’.
He said the majority of bookings were for New York, Miami, Guyana and Santo Domingo.