Copter package to Hampi proves a hit

Heli-hopping

All seats, bar one, were taken. The tour was a precursor to the heli-tourism initiative.
As many as 179 of the 180 seats in the three chartered flights to Hampi were full. Also, nearly 30 of the 60 seats were occupied in the special flight from Hyderabad for the ‘Hampi Utsav,’ held between January 27 and 29.

“The tour package was very successful. Lack of chartered flights with private airlines made us limit this year’s package to three flights,” said an officer of the State Tourism Department. Last year, the festival saw 10 such flights (six from Bangalore and two each from Hyderabad and Chennai). Chennai was dropped this year as a starting point, due to lack of chartered flights.

The two-night, three-day package took the visitors to Hampi by flight from Bangalore and Hyderabad. After sightseeing in the heritage city in an air-conditioned bus, the tourists were taken to Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal in the AC bus.

The State tourism currently organises two such tour packages - one during the Hampi Utsav and another during Mysore Dasara. The luxury of travelling by flight and accommodation in star hotels at subsidised rates made even the common man grab the opportunity. The package was priced at Rs 9,000 per person from Bangalore and Rs 10,000 from Hyderabad.

“Most memorable” is how many travellers described the trip. “The arrangements were really fantastic,” said Dr Dinesh Vaidya, an urologist with Manipal Hospital. “It was one of the most wonderful tours I have ever had. Hampi at night was enchanting,” he said.

A few tourists said the quality of guides and the food needed improvement. “The arrangements were good, but the dinner on both nights was not up to the mark. If that is improved, I will take that trip again,” said K L Ramesh, a Bangalore-based businessman.

“Guides were not familiar with languages other than Kannada. Outsiders like me will find it difficult to understand what they say,” said Purshotham Patel, a Gujarati businessman settled in Bangalore.

Subsidised rates

However, subsidising the air fares was criticised by former Tourism commissioner I M Vittala Murthy. “The need of the hour is not to subsidise heli-tourism, but to build brand equity of our tourist spots,” said Vittala Murthy.

“All our heritage sites are connected well by road and trains. We need to work on them,” he said.

But officials of the Department of Tourism justified the subsidy on air fares, collected as part of the total charges from tourists. “The subsidy is not for the elite, but to promote heli-tourism among the middle class,” said a top official of the Tourism department, who did not wish to be named.

“It is (subsidy) only for the initial years. Once trips become popular, the subsidy will be removed.”

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