Tourism in­dus­try too feels the tremors, Nepal tour can­cel­la­tions pil­ing up

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

The mas­sive earth­quake in Nepal is se­verely shak­ing the tourism in­dus­try as well. Even des­ti­na­tions in In­dia like Dar­jeel­ing, Sikkim, Ut­taran­chal and Hi­machal Pradesh are not spared.

T he mas­sive earth­quake in Nepal is se­verely shak­ing the tourism in­dus­try as well. Even des­ti­na­tions in In­dia like Dar­jeel­ing, Sikkim, Ut­taran­chal and Hi­machal Pradesh are not spared.

Travel op­er­a­tors and on­line travel por­tals say can­cel­la­tions are pil­ing up. Sharat Dhall, pres­i­dent, Ya­tra.com, told dna: “We had a lot of can­cel­la­tions for Nepal for the next month and even be­yond. Leav­ing those who wanted to visit Nepal to be with their fam­i­lies, around 90% of our bookings have been can­celled. And th­ese were all leisure trav­ellers.”

Can­cel­la­tions are not just for Nepal, but also for Dar­jeel­ing, Sikkim, Ut­taran­chal and Hi­machal Pradesh, says Shiju Rad­hakr­ish­nan, founder & CEO, iTrav­eller.com. “Peo­ple who planned travel in the first half of May are scared to go there im­me­di­ately. We are ex­pect­ing less than 100 such can­cel­la­tions.”

For many adventure tourists to Nepal, In­dia is a base camp en route to Kathmandu.

Travel can­cel­la­tions may see tour op­er­a­tors re­port­ing huge fi­nan­cial losses.

On­line por­tals and travel op­er­a­tors said they would re­fund trav­ellers, depend­ing on air­line rules. Jet Air­ways said it will waive off all can­cel­la­tion charges on con­firmed tick­ets for travel to and from Kathmandu for any travel date in fu­ture.

“All can­cel­la­tion charges for such tours have been waived off by our prod­uct teams,” said Ra­jeev Kale, pres­i­dent & COO (MICE, do­mes­tic & sports tourism), Thomas Cook.

While most air­lines of­fer zero can­cel­la­tion or re-sched­ul­ing charges for up to a week to and from Kathmandu, can­cel­la­tion charges of ho­tels and other land ar­range­ments have to be borne out by tour op­er­a­tors. “We have to bear it as hote­liers and trans­port op­er­a­tors in Nepal will not be in a po­si­tion to re­fund us,” Asit Biswas, co-founder, Help Tourism, which con­ducts con­ser­va­tion and adventure tourism in the Eastern Hi­malayan range, said. With var­i­ous coun­tries like the US, the UK, Canada and Australia is­su­ing travel ad­vi­sories, ask­ing their cit­i­zens to avoid non-es­sen­tial travel, it’s go­ing to be tough for the tourism in­dus­try.

“While there are no can­cel­la­tions for eastern Hi­malayan ar­eas like Bhutan, North-East, Sikkim, Dar­jeel­ing and Dooars, tourism to Nepal would be se­verely af­fected,” Biswas said.

Nepal is fa­mous for adventure travel, wildlife and leisure travel. It at­tracts a large chunk of crowds just for adventure tourism. Go­ing by its cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, such trav­els are not ad­vis­able.”

MakeMyTrip’s chief busi­ness of­fi­cer (hol­i­days), Ran­jeet Oak, also said that Nepal has been popular among adventure trav­ellers from the Europe and the US.

“With an av­er­age bud­get of Rs 15,000-Rs 25,000 per per­son, a ma­jor­ity of trav­ellers usu­ally spend 3-5 nights. Keep­ing on­ground sit­u­a­tion in mind, we have vol­un­tar­ily can­celled all de­par­tures to Nepal for the time be­ing. In re­turn, we are of­fer­ing trips to Kash­mir, Ladakh, Bhutan and Hi­machal to tourists whose travel plans have been af­fected by the quake,” said Oak.

Biswas said that af­ter the earth­quake, Nepal could be also at the risk of an epi­demic. At such a sit­u­a­tion, tourist move­ments can cre­ate more dif­fi­cul­ties and a hin­drance to re­lief work.

Help Tourism, which con­ducts a 12-day-long Ta­mang Her­itage Trail (an ex­cit­ing trekking route), will be can­celling bookings of three groups con­sist­ing of an av­er­age of 6-8 trav­ellers per group.

“The three groups were from Nor­way, Canada and Australia. We have ad­vised them to travel to some other lo­ca­tions. There are a few leisure bookings which may also see can­cel­la­tions,” Biswas added.

Tour op­er­a­tors in West Ben­gal and Sikkim, how­ever, play down any ma­jor im­pact.

Satish Bardewa, pres­i­dent, Travel Agents’ As­so­ci­a­tion, said while there are no can­cel­la­tions for Sikkim and North­east, the same for Nepal for May-June is around 40%. How­ever, those booked for Oc­to­ber-Novem­ber is still in place, he claimed.

( Court­sey : Soumonty Ka­nungo for DNA Anal­y­sis)

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