Tourism industry struggles to survive by allowing discounts in slowdown
SHIMLA/MANALI: Battered by unexpected slowdown in tourism industry,
all the trades beginning from hotel industry to taxi or adventure industry of
Himachal have dropped their service charges up to 50% to be able to breathe in
the suffocating atmosphere of recession.
Manoj Kumar, a hotel contractor from Garhwal, broke his lease with two hotels two years in
advance. He believes that operating hotel is no more the affair of profit. “I
suffered huge losses. I’m not able to meet the expenses of staff and other
running costs. Hotel is empty and the peak summer season which used to last for
more than two years was observed only for 20 days in June this year.” Similar
are the comments from most of the hoteliers.
Khajjiar, Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh
Not only early
arrival of the monsoon and disaster in Uttarakhand but the tourism
entrepreneurs attributes this sudden slowdown to weak marketing of tourism of
the state by government. The only way out of this situation is big discounts.
Hoteliers are offering big discounts on room tariff to entice the guests. Even
the fare of taxi and luxury buses has decreased to attract customers. Now that
season for trekking and adventure activities has begun, travel agents are
trying to stay on track by offering big rebates.
“Advertisement
of Himachal tourism may put a big impact on the industry as now the fight is
between states and we are lagging behind in marketing,” laments Gajender
Thakur, a hotelier and former president of hoteliers association here who is
allowing flat 50% discount in his hotel. He said tourism in Gujarat and Madhya
Pradesh is booming with the help of advertisements and the Himachal Tourism
Development Board had once suggested making Kangana Ranaut, the Himachal girl,
the brand ambassador of Himachal which could not be implemented.
Manali town is
full with parked taxis which have no clients to ferry to its tourist
destinations. Remaining taxis are having tough competition by lowering their
fares to fetch the few tourists who are visiting Manali. Manali taxi union
general secretary Makar Dhwaj Sharma said there are many factors responsible
for the slowdown and over 80% taxi drivers have no work. “However we have fix
prices for all routes. Still the drivers are offering up to 40% discount to
nourish their families. Tourists have disappeared like golden deer,” he said.
Rajkumar Dogra,
president of luxury coach union of Manali, said no efforts are being made by
government to shut the mouths of those who are spreading rumors about floods in
various parts of Himachal. He adds, “Tourists need assurance for their safety.
We have no idea about the exact reason behind the recession but despite this we
are forced to allow big discounts to customers.”
Even shopkeepers
and small scale vendors are affected by the sudden slowdown in industry as
majority of traders are dependent on tourists for their sales. Anil Mehta, a
local shawl industrialist, said his sale has dropped by over 70% and now he is
allowing discount up to 30% on his all the products. “Discount is the only way
to attract customers. Contrary to the planning, the tourist season was very
short this time and is squeezing every year,” he adds.
It is the
traders linked to trekking and adventure activities that are worrying the most.
Chhering Bodh from North Land Adventure said, “Trekking season has started but
cancellations is the big problem this year. We are ensuring our guests of
safety and security and also allowing them big discounts.”
Tourism and civil aviation director, Himachal Pradesh, Subhasish Panda said at present the
tourism department has little low budget for marketing and advertisements but
they are targeting the unique areas by advertisement on newspapers and
magazines. “Presently we attend nearly 20 tourism trade fairs across the
country and allow big discounts to private hoteliers to ensure their
participation. We are planning to go big by making a renowned actor from
Himachal our brand ambassador. For now, we are advertizing in various states to
visit Himachal in monsoon season,” he said.

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