#Voices of Travel: Employee well being should take top priority, according to Rajiv Bhasin of Errands Travel & Tours

In our ongoing series, we explore how the humans of travel are mitigating the ongoing COVID19 outbreak. Today Rajiv Bhasin, Errands Travel and Tours speaks to us.

We are a professionally run boutique travel agency in operation since 1993. Our specialisation is in international ticketing and customised holiday packages. We work for several international and Indian organisations, as well as frequent individual travellers.

We had very ambitious plans for 2020 to capture the fast-growing holiday segment in the country. We had very recently put together a new website and were in talks with agencies to start marketing our packages. Initially, when we heard about COVID-19, we thought it was a local problem in the Wuhan district of China. Like many other such situations that took place in the past, we thought that it would pass away after a few weeks. We were totally taken aback once the pandemic escalated to a global scale. The entire world is now engulfed in this sorry situation. All our passengers booked for this season have cancelled their travel plans. We helped several of our clients who were already travelling to rush back to India at short notice. As a result of the large-scale cancellations, we are approaching the airlines, our hotel partners, and car rental partners on a daily-basis for refunds or re-issuance to new dates. This is proving to be a huge challenge because the hotels and the airlines are flooded with thousands of such requests from many others like us.

In an ideal world, the Government should put in place a cash-flow mechanism that ensures that the airlines, hotels and travel agents are able to fulfil their refund obligations. The Government should also provide industry stakeholders with subsidies on taxes (on fuel, room rents, GST, income tax, etc.). The tourism authorities can spread awareness amongst the general public about the difficult times our industry is facing right now. They can also use their resources to reach out to the Government for getting suitable relief packages for the industry workforce (which currently is estimated to be a staggering 200,00,000).

We have personally assured our employees that their jobs are secure, and their safety is our topmost priority. We arranged for them to work remotely even before the lockdown was imposed by the Central and State Governments on 24 March 2020.

We will get through this, although this is going to be a long haul. We just need to keep our confidence and stay calm. For sure, we will beat these difficult times, although we cannot say right now how long this will last. In any case, the one thing that we can be certain of is, this situation would have changed each one of us for the better. Such is life and its challenges.