Nearly 65 per cent of the domestic air travel has returned to the pre-COVID-19 level according to Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Mumbai: Nearly 65 per cent of the domestic air travel has returned to the pre-COVID-19 level and now there is a need to evolve a strategy to bring back the tourism industry on its feet, Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said on Saturday.

He was addressing a webinar on ‘Aviation and Tourism-the Road Ahead’ hosted by the Federation of Association of Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH).

Kharola also said in the times of COVID-19 air travel has become a preferred mode of travel for being a safe means of transportation.

“On the first day of resumption of domestic air services (May 25) there were 79,000 people who would travel and we were worried. But gradually it started improving,” he said.

Kharola said, on Friday total 2.50 lakh passengers travelled on domestic flights and considering that the average per day passenger number was around 3.70-3.75 lakh before the pandemic hit the country, almost 65 per cent of the domestic travel is back to the pre-COVID-19 level.

He said that as more business activities and colleges open up, this may go up to 80-90 per cent in the next 2-3 months or almost to the level of normalcy.

Kharola also said as business travel demand will take time to come back, it will be segments like VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) driving the demand in aviation going forward.

On the opening of scheduled international commercial passengers flights, he said,” international aviation depends not only on us but other side also.”

Kharola said with domestic air travel returning to normalcy, the tourism industry too should be brought back on its feet.

“Aviation is going towards normal. This normalcy ought to be brought in tourism industry also. Tourist destinations have already opened up, the ASI has opened up the monuments. Now is the time to convince people that it is safe to travel,” Kharola said.

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“So we all have to work together and evolve a strategy to motivate that domestic tourism also picks up,” he said, adding that at the same time other countries should also consider issuing tourist visas again.

Kharola also urged the tourism industry to promote domestic airlines as it would help in revival of the economy.