The increasing popularity of hill resorts of Manali has given rise to the travel related fraudulent incidents with tourists, hoteliers and local tourism entrepreneurs who are being duped by fraud travel agents in Delhi, Mumbai and other metro cities.
Around 25 lakh tourists visit Manali every year but not all of them return back with happy memories. There are some visitors who get surprised after finding no booking in hotel for which they had paid in advance to the travel agents. Local travel agents and hoteliers are being duped for big amounts on the pretext of finalizing a big holiday package deals. Many tourists have been cheated on the name of lucky draw, special offers and discounts. But very few of them dare to register complaint to avoid getting into unnecessary trouble.
“We had booked our 4 days luxury honeymoon package for Rs 18,000 after getting fifty percent discount for booking online from a travel agent in Delhi but when we reached Manali on Sunday, our booking was made in a cheap and dirty hotel near Mall Road area,” Kunal and Ketaki Ranjan, from Ghaziabad, said. The couple who narrated their story to some hoteliers and travel agents here, refused to lodge an FIR saying that they don’t want to spoil their honeymoon in legal proceedings.
In one more recent case, a travel agent in Delhi, who first called up management of hotel Kanishka in Manali to book 15 rooms for him and said that he was on way to Manali with a bus, cheated them of Rs 7,000. Manali DSP Shamsher Singh, who has appointed an investigation officer to unearth this scam, said the fraud travel agent made another call to hotel management and said that his bus has a technical problem and he needed Rs 10,000 which he would repay in Manali. “To assure the hotel management, cheater made third call and said that deposit only Rs 7,000 in his account, he has arranged for Rs 3,000. They finally deposited Rs 7,000 and now he is not attending any phone call. An officer has been sent to Delhi to investigate the matter. We have one more such case,” he said.
As the 80 percent flow of tourists to Himachal comes through Delhi, local travel agents remain dependant on agents in Delhi for better outcome. Sources say, around 25 percent travel agents in Himachal were operating their agencies without having registered with the tourism department and number was even higher in Delhi and metro cities. Many travel agents working online don’t have any permanent working office and are difficult to trace. Still they are luring customers with their enticing offers and tourism department was failed to detect such criminals.
Owner of Himalayan Holiday Tours in Manali, Sanjeev Singh, complained that a travel agent in Delhi was convincing him for cash deposit to avail the special offers. “I would have agreed to his words if I was not guided by the police,” he adds. Police have advised all the tourism entrepreneurs to check the authenticity of the person before making any payment.