Apprehensions triggered by the very infectious Omicron variant of coronavirus have resulted in cancellations by a number of foreign tourists to Kerala.
"My loved ones say that I should come home. The initial plan was to be on holiday for two months. But now with Omicron, I don't know, I may return in one week. I am yet to decide but am closely following the news", Tony Norgreem, a solo traveler from Sweden, said.
Mr Norgreem had reached Kovalam on November 28, days before the checks for Omicron had begun or cases confirmed beyond South Africa. His initial plan was to stay for two months, but now, he says he may have to cut short his travel and is tracking the news daily.
Popular tourist locations in Kerala have also largely remained empty of foreign tourists despite the peak season. The only relief is the increasing trickle of domestic tourists.
While international tourists in Kerala have seen a dip of 91.22% compared to 2020, the southern state has reported a 14% increase in tourists from other states.
"Since the Covid pandemic, it's for the first time that we have travelled out. We've been out for 7 days, it's only in Kerala that I have seen people wear masks everywhere. Be it taxi drivers, vendors, police officials - everyone. People hardly wear masks in other states I've seen like Rajasthan, Delhi or Tamil Nadu", Ram Singh, a tourist from Jaipur said.
The first three samples of foreign returnees who tested positive and were sent for genomic sequencing have not shown up the Omicron variant.
"Samples of three have tested negative for Omicron. It's an ongoing process with results of 3-4 more expected. We are fully prepared," Kerala Health Minister Veena George told NDTV.
But apprehensions triggered by the very infectious Omicron variant has already resulted in cancellations, among international tourists.
TN Suresh, a hotel owner in Kovalam says, "We had bookings starting December 20th. Also for January, February. But almost all bookings by international tourists are cancelled after news over Omicron. October to March is the peak tourist period in Kerala, especially involving European travelers".