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