Tourists cry off, Pushkar feels pinch
RAKHEE ROY TALUKDAR
Foreigners at a rally in Ajmer in October to save the Pushkar lake from pollution
The Wall Street whirlpool has sucked in Rajasthan’s flourishing tourism industry with the immediate victim being the Pushkar fair usually graced by visitors from all over the US and Europe.
Tour operators said 40 per cent of the advance bookings for the fair, to be held from November 5-13, had been cancelled, something that has never happened before, leaving the industry shell-shocked.
Khalid Khan, the president of the Rajasthan Association of Tour Operators, said: “The Pushkar fair has been a major casualty of the meltdown this year. At least 40 per cent cancellations have been recorded, mostly from the US and Europe.
“Overall in the state, we do not have many bookings for November and hardly any for January 2009 when the peak season starts. There are anxious queries among foreign travellers as they face the reality of a credit crunch and rising debt and delinquency.”
Khan said the forecast for the tourist season, which usually starts around Christmas and goes on till March, looked bleak at present.
“Hotels are offering special discounts but are not ready to make it public, preferring to do it on a one-to-one basis with the client,” he said.
The hospitality industry, which banks on the peak season, has begun feeling the heat. Timmie Kumar, the owner of the five-star Clarks Amer in Jaipur, said: “October has not been too bad but November onwards, things would definitely not be as good as last year. No major cancellations, but bookings for the future have been bleak till now.”
Tourism executives also fear the serial blasts in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Guwahati this year would have had an impact on foreign tourists, especially those from the US and Europe who have not witnessed any terrorist act since the 9/11 blasts and the July 2007 London bombings.