Crisis boosts State tourism

Crisis boosts State tourism

A view of river Kabini. DH Photo

Thanks to the economic crisis, there has been a huge surge in in-bound tourism in India this year, with people preferring to travel within the country, in a bid to save cost. Karnataka being no different, has also benefitted with many re-discovering the State’s tourist destinations.

With its dependence on foreign tourists being low and people opting to travel within the country, State’s destinations have made the most of the crisis. Hoteliers and resort owners agree that people prefer traveling within the region keeping their budgets in mind —— ‘drive-in’ holiday as the industry calls it—— spending, alright but saving as well.

A senior official from Indiadekho.Com, who tracks the travel market agreed to this assessment and told Deccan Herald “The overall travel industry in the country (estimated at around US$1 billion) was down about 20 per cent last year, but the number of people traveling were more or less the same. It was just that they made smaller trips to closer locations.”

Extending this opinion, Hammock Leisure Holidays Private Limited Managing Director B Chandran said there is an increase in demand for destinations in the State as the crisis has managed to eat into the spending of people. Now, they are more keen on traveling within the State, mostly, a five-six hour journey and a day or two’s stay.
Such a trend might have eaten into margins for tourists destinations like Kerala, Kajhuraho, and others which depend heavily on foreign tourists, but it has been a blessing (not really in disguise) as far as Karnataka is concerned.

In complete agreement to the assessment, Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) Managing Director Vinay Luthra said “The crisis has definitely forced people to think before planning a holiday, but not stopped them from going on one. The trend now is to travel within a certain region, and this is not specific to India, according to our feedback, even countries in the European Union (EU) and America among other regions have been witnessing a similar trend.”

Increased business
As the number of such travellers has increased, KSTDC, he said, has in fact grown in the last year (2008-09) by about 22-25 per cent and projected similar prospects for the current financial year (2009-10).

Pointing out that the corporate traveling and foreign tourists have declined, Luthra said that Karnataka never really depended heavily on foreigners, and the dip in corporate travel has only impacted the growth rate. “In absolute terms we have been growing, and expect to grow further,” he added. KSTDC, offers about 25 different package tours, runs about 40 buses and operates 15 hotels across Mysore, Coorg, Belur, Halebeedu, Jog Falls, Hampi, Badami, Aihole, et al. Similarly, another big operator anticipates an increase of 30 per cent in its turnover for the year ending March 31 2010. A senior marketing official of the company that owns four resorts in the State (Coorg, Kabini, Hampi etc) said, “In some months we have seen about 300 per cent jump.” Echoing similar sentiments, Holiday Makers, a travel agency, said that it has been witnessing a steady 20-25 per cent growth month-on-month for a quarter or so. Company Director Sriram Hebbar said “In bound travelling (into Karnataka) has definitely improved. Although people are just doing 2-3 nights holidays, the volume hasn’t really been hit.”

Jungle Lodges, a serious player in eco-tourism in the State running 12 leisure resorts in the state, is also of the view that the State is doing fine in tourism. “The destinations people opt to tour have changed, not the number of people,” a source said, adding “The crisis, has in fact, turned out to be a blessing for us, as there are more and more people opting for one - two day trips within the State, as worries excessive spending is at the back of their heads while planning for longer, farther trips.”

There is increased demand, up, at least by about 30 per cent for our water activities like white-water rafting, kayaking, canoe tours, he added. Chrysalis Holidays Managing Director Supriya Kandhari said that her firms is making a turnover over of Rs 1 crore a month in the last few months compared to Rs 20-25 lakh per month last year. “With the economy looking up, the travel industry has got an immediate impetus,” she added.

Likewise, Speciality Travels has seen a growth of at least 20-30 per cent this year with a conversion rate of 80 per cent (enquiries materialising), its Managing Director Sanjay Kumar said.  While Chrysalis sends 20-25 families in a month, Speciality says a minimum of 40 people make enquires in a month.

Endorsing the view of players in the industry, findings by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel community, in its India Winter Travel Trends has revealed that this is true to the whole of India.

For example, some hotels in Goa found that the loss of foreign tourist was more than compensated by domestic travelers. Zuri Hotels & Resorts Director, Abhishek Kamani said “Our two five star properties in Goa are running full. Foreign charters this winter is negligible but Indian tourists are keeping us busy.” He also demolished the myth that Indians don’t spend much. “Our average per room earnings are better than now than what we could make from charter tourists,” he said.

Introspecting on the same, the industry is now keen on tapping the ignored local tourist community. While, it is good that the silver lining provided by locals has prompted the industry to bring in changes that add value to the same as also to make the most of them, but then, the question that remains is: How far away is the industry reconsidering the ‘foreigners are the most preferred’ FAD?

Doubts apart, the industry, stating that it will finds ways to accommodate the local traveler, also hopes that the popularity of these destinations, which has gone up in the bargain of recession, clipped expenditure, and —— the Drive-in tours —— is taken advantage of by the government, lest the government’s ignorance prevails.

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