Sunday, 21 July 2013

Tourism industry struggles to survive by allowing discounts in slowdown

Himachal Vacation Travel News
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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