Prohibition, a curse for the hotel industry, is turning out to be a boon for travel operators —courtesy a spurt in the outflow of tourists.
While hotel occupancy in Bihar has plummeted by over half after a 40% decline in incoming tourists, people taking a picnic break from the state have increased by 20% over the previous year, according to tour planners. This, they say, is essentially due to a liquor ban in the state.
Bihar was declared a dry state this April, with the Nitish Kumar government imposing complete prohibition on the sale and consumption of alcohol. It is driving more people to take travel breaks.
“Most now go outside the state to chill out. Kullu-Manali, Shimla, Kerala or the Andamans have emerged as the most favoured destinations in India,” says Sanjeev Kumar of Mamta Travels, a leading travel agency in Patna. “Those going overseas prefer Bangkok and Macau, where one has access to casino, with free meal and liquor.”
Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, with visa-on-arrival facility, are also preferred destinations. “Besides, luxury star cruises, where one can enjoy meal and liquor, are a hit,” he adds.
Middle East and Gulf destinations like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with their shopping malls, global villages and gold souk, are also high on popularity chart this season.
“The well-to-do Bihari is desperate to go out and enjoy life,” notes Kumar. “The reason for spurt in outbound tourism from Bihar is total prohibition in the state.”
The long Dussehra vacation, beginning Saturday and culminating with Muharram on Wednesday, has given most upwardly-mobile gentry here an opportunity to go out with their families. “There has been heavy booking for Kerala, Rajasthan and Gujarat as well,” says Shailesh Kumar of Almania Travels.
Manish Kumar of Cox and Kings says Biharis have abandoned Paris after the November 15 terror attack there. Preference remains high for Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore and Malaysia.
From business point of view, Bihar Tours and Travels Association secretary KP Singh attributes the spurt in outbound tourist as the “only positive effect” of prohibition.