How many tourists will visit India during the Commonwealth Games? While a premier travel association is expecting a meagre 10,000 as against ambitious projections of 100,000 earlier, others are optimistic about a boost in business during the event.
The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) criticised the preparations for the mega event which were marred by delays and dismissed estimates that over 100,000 tourists would be visiting Delhi for the Oct 3-14 Games.
‘A few years ago, it was estimated that 100,000 visitors would visit the country during the Games. But now, the estimate is a meagre 10,000,’ said Rajji Rai, president of TAAI, on the sidelines of a function here last week.
‘We, as travel agents, have lost a lot of potential business owing to delays by the authorities in preparing the venues and meeting other deadlines. We are very disappointed,’ he said.
Reflecting the mood among tour operators, Rajan Singla, chief executive officer of Club Travels, Janakpuri, told IANS: ‘Honestly, we are not expecting a big turnout because we know that it is not going to happen. Moreover, we are not even sure if the preparations would be over in time.’
The major reasons being cited by tour operators for poor tourist response are the spread of diseases like dengue and swine flu and the unplanned and unorganised preparations for the event.
They said these factors have sullied Delhi’s image as a host. These could even force tourists to have a rethink over their visit, tour operators said.
‘Look at the condition of Delhi’s roads…diseases like dengue are spreading. Tourists won’t be willing to come here. When our own athletes are falling sick what will happen to foreigners?’ asked Chetna Varma, senior executive of 7 Seas Holidays.
Tour operators now appear keen to wait till the eleventh hour to create special packages for Games tourists or for offering discounts.
At present, all that they are planning to offer to tourists are circuits like Agra and Jaipur that, in any case, are popular among foreign visitors.
Arpit Kansal, tour executive of North Tourism India Private Limited, told IANS: ‘We are not planning anything special for the Games. We already have a lot of tour packages and they will remain the same during the Games.’
‘There are no advance bookings for rooms in the capital’s hotels. The price of each room has come down by around Rs.5,000 because of that,’ he added.
V. Natarajan, chief executive officer of Bharatiyam Tours and Travels, said: ‘We get our bookings through our foreign agent and he has not made any booking as yet. So, there is no question of offering any special package.’
Somnath Rajput, manager of Lynx Tour and Travels, said: ‘We don’t require any special package to attract tourists. We are doing good business already, especially in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.’
Officials in Cox and Kings and Kuoni travels also denied any special travel package being planned for tourists coming for the Games.
A senior official from the tourism ministry, however, dismissed the claims made by tour operators on tourist arrivals.
‘The Games’ ticket sales are encouraging and the number of visitors will be on the higher side of the estimates. There will be more than 100,000 visitors in the capital during the Games, including the domestic crowd,’ he said.
According to the official, around 65-90 percent of the rooms in five-star hotels have been booked while two and three star hotels are also getting bookings.
Gaur Kanjilal, director of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), told Ians: ‘There have been bulk bookings by tourists for the two months, but they are not specifically coming here for the Games. They are the regular tourists who come to India during this time of the year,’ said Kanjilal.
There are some travel consultants and tour operators who have arranged special Games packages to encash on the Games buzz.
Keyur Joshi, COO and co-founder, MakeMyTrip, said: ‘We are offering packages especially for the sports season as well as Delhiites for the upcoming holidays during the Commonwealth Games’ period.’
‘There are domestic as well as international packages on offer. We have designed products for the Andamans, Kerala, Goa, Vaishno Devi and the northeast,’ Joshi said.
Amrit Pal Singh, director of Mann Tours and Travels, said: ‘We will be offering special packages to Agra and Jaipur in association with the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC). These will be launched Oct 1.’