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Hit by demonetisation, tourism industry is banking on year-end respite


KSTDC seeing 40 p.c. occupancy even in its prime properties; situation is not as bleak in private sector

First, the unrest over the Cauvery waters sharing dispute and then demonetisation; it has not been a good season for the tourism industry in the State. With the cash crunch disrupting everyday life, travel plans have become a casualty in many cases. With the exam season fast approaching, most players are now pinning their hope on the summer vacations to recover their losses. Many are hoping that the Christmas–New Year holidays will bring in some respite.

Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC), for example, is seeing 40 per cent occupancy even in its prime properties in Kodagu, Mysuru, Srirangapatna, and Hampi.

KSTDC Managing Director Kumar Pushkar said properties across the State had seen a drop in occupancy by 30 to 35 per cent in November, post-demonetisation, compared with earlier holiday seasons. “After the dip we saw in September because of the Cauvery issue, bookings have not picked up. After demonetisation, though we have facilities for online payments, tourists still need some cash in hand to get around the places,” he said, explaining why visitors are keeping away.

The situation is not as bleak in the private sector, with many operators saying that business has finally started picking up. A lot of the reservations for the year-end were made before demonetisation.

Homestays in Kodagu, which are hugely popular options, also experienced a slump in November, though bookings started picking up in December, Madan Somanna, president, Coorg Homestay Association.

Usually packed during this time of the year, the lack of alternative modes of payment is posing a problem. “Though most homestay owners are open to bank transfers, there is still apprehension about installing card swiping machines,” said Navin Poonacha from the association, which is also preparing to accept online payments from mid-January through its website.

It is not just hotel bookings. M. Ravi of Arjun Tours and Travels Pvt. Ltd. said taxi drivers, for example, were finding it difficult to make transactions with customers between getting paid for their trips and paying entry taxes in the neighbouring States.

“Like every other industry, the tourism and travel industry has taken a hit, and business is down by 20 to 25 per cent. However, it is a luxury requirement. So online portals could be seeing an increase in bookings from those who usually travel during Christmas and New Year,” he added.

This is already happening, said Aurvind Lama, CEO of Travelyaari, a Bengaluru-based online bus booking platform. “One can see online bookings go up tremendously this December, maybe by 40 to 50 per cent. In fact, offline bookings too could increase by 20 per cent this month as people who had postponed plans earlier are making them happen this month,” he said.

Golden Chariot continues to suffer

The not-so-golden run of the luxury train Golden Chariot continued well into the holiday season, with even the short-haul trips that the Tourism Department launched during Dasara failing to catch the fancy of tourists. The department finally ran only one of the five trips that were planned.

With the slump expected to continue until the summer vacations commence because of the exam season, the Tourism Department is looking at running trips from April to September to make up for the current losses.

Restaurants, pubs hit affected

Among the other leisure spaces hit by demonetisation are hotels, restaurants and pubs. Owners of such spaces said unlike popular perception, not all their customers were those who swiped cards for payment.

“The pubs, for example, were doing around 70 to 80 per cent of business through cards, which has gone up to around 86 per cent post-demonetisation. The remaining 14 per cent, that would have been business through cash payments, is not coming in, which means sales are down,” said Ashish Kothare, head of Bengaluru Chapter and member of the managing committee of the National Restaurant Association of India.

Source: The Hindu

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