Rajasthan tourism hit by Jaipur blasts, Gujjar protests

May 29th, 2008 - 5:08 pm ICT by admin  

By Anil Sharma
Jaipur, May 29 (IANS) With a terror attack in the heart of its capital and the Gujjar movement demanding tribe status spinning out of control, Rajasthan’s tourism industry has been dealt a body blow with tourists staying away from its famed dunes, forts and palaces. Hotel occupancy rates have plummeted and tour operators’ losses are mounting.

“We are worried. We are not getting any booking enquiries. Even the tourists who booked for the tourism season starting from October are having second thoughts. They are asking us how safe it would be to travel,” said Navendu Goswami, a tour operator here.

“Rajasthan has always been considered a very peaceful state, but these bomb blasts and violent agitations have hit its image. Tourists will have to be reassured that they are safe here, otherwise we might see a decline in arrivals, especially foreign travellers.”

On May 13, 65 people were killed and over 200 injured when serial blasts rocked Jaipur’s walled city. The terror attack was the first in the history of the Pink City, so called because a medieval ruler had ordered all buildings in the walled city painted pink, a tradition that endures.

Exactly 10 days later, on May 23, the Gujjar community launched a protest to demand tribal status for better education and job opportunities. Since May 23, at least 37 people have been killed in clashes between the protestors and security forces. The escalating violence has also virtually blocked access to the state with the Gujjars blocking arterial highways and train tracks.

Traffic movement between Agra and Jaipur has been disrupted due to the Gujjar agitation. Buses are not going beyond Bharatpur and foreign tourists have returned to Delhi, cancelling trips to Jaipur for the moment.

“These kinds of incidents do affect tourism. Though we do not get foreign tourists during this part of year, domestic budget tourists do come during their children’s summer holidays. These tourists have now started looking for other destinations, affecting mainly the economy and budget hotels,” said Ramkumar, a travel agent.

Hotelier Surendra Singh added that occupancy in economy and budget hotels in the state, especially in Jaipur, had dropped to below 15 percent.

“The state has around 10,000 rooms in various categories of hotels. In May we used to have occupancy of around 50-60 percent but after the bombings and the Gujjar agitation, the occupancy has plummeted to around 15-20 percent,” Singh said.

He said the government should act fast to control the Gujjar agitation and prevent terror attacks, and launch a global campaign to promote Rajasthan as a safe tourist destination.

With a record arrival of more than 1.2 million foreign tourists and 17 million domestic tourists during 2005-06, Rajasthan has been one of the most popular Indian tourist destinations. While the winter months are the peak season, about 30 percent of all visitors come to the state in the summers.

The arrival of foreign tourists to the state of Rajasthan has seen a quantum jump from 428,000 tourists in 2002 to 1.22 million in 2006. The annual rate of growth of tourism in the state has increased by seven percent for domestic tourists and five percent for international visitors.

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