Gujjar violence hit tourism in Rajasthan
The industry has seen a sharp decline in tourist arrivals since the militant sections of the community, that seeks affirmative action.jaipur Updated: Jun 03, 2007 09:06 IST
The violent protests by the Gujjar community have dealt deadly blows to Rajasthan's booming tourism industry, frustrating foreign and Indian travelers who never expected such troubles in the otherwise serene state.
The industry has seen a sharp decline in tourist arrivals since the militant sections of the community, that seeks affirmative action, took to the streets May 29, blocking road and train traffic. Hotels and tour operators say several tourist bookings have been cancelled while many tourists who are here are finding it difficult to leave Jaipur.
The occupancy of the hotels has gone down by over 50 per cent in the city.
"Although it is off season, many tourists come to Rajasthan during this time of the year. Most are domestic tourists. Now many people have cancelled their bookings," said Navendu Goswami, a travel agent.
Jaipur is part of the "golden triangle" circuit comprising New Delhi-Agra-Jaipur, and almost 60 per cent of international tourists visiting India make it to these three places. And with the Jaipur-Agra highway blocked by Gujjar protestors for the last five days, this sector has been hit the most.
The rate of growth of tourism in Rajasthan has been phenomenal in recent years. The annual growth rate for domestic tourists has been seven per cent and for international tourists five per cent.
According to the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the total spending by all tourists visiting the state is over Rs10 billion ($225 million) per annum.
The situation is grim for tourists who are getting no leads to get out of Jaipur, which remains linked to most of India only by air.
"I came here May 30 with my family. I am trying hard to get out but the situation is hopeless. Even the air fares have gone out of reach of the common people," complains PR Rao, a tourist from Hyderabad.
Foreign tourists are faring no better.
"We were to leave for Agra but there are no rail or road links. We are even not getting any airline tickets. The only thing we can do is to stay in the same hotel and wait for the situation to improve. Our entire schedule is disturbed," Felip, who gave only one name and came here from Spain, told IANS.
Travel agent Goswami added: "Rajasthan is known as a peaceful place. But if such things go on, it will certainly effect the tourism industry globally."
Besides tourists, hundreds of pilgrims are camping in various bus stands and railways stations in and around Jaipur.
At several places, the government has made temporary arrangements for food and shelter for the commuters. But it is not the food that is the main worry. The tourists and pilgrims want to leave Rajasthan - and there is no sign when peace will return to the state.