Variety

Wildlife tour operators feel the heat

Nivedita Ganguly Mumbai | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on August 12, 2012

Wildlife tour packages form a major part of most product offerings. — Photo: Nivedita Ganguly   -  Business Line

Fallout of apex court ban

The rich bio-diversity of Indian forests and the grandeur of the Royal Bengal Tiger have been major draws for foreign tourists visiting India. However, the Supreme Court’s interim order, which temporarily banned tourism in core areas of tiger reserves, may have an adverse impact on foreign tourist arrivals (FTA) this year.

Sources in the travel and tourism industry said while winter (October-January) bookings have already begun, wildlife tour packages have suffered a major blow owing to the ban.

Wildlife parks form a major part of most product offerings. In fact, cultural-based tours often add wildlife tour extensions. The ban will lead to as much as a third of the offerings becoming unfeasible, tour operators told Business Line.

Markets such as the UK work 18 months in advance; therefore, brochures have been already been printed till April 2014, in which parks like Ranthambhore in Rajasthan and tiger parks in Madhya Pradesh feature prominently. “This entire segment is expected to be impacted adversely. After the Taj Mahal, wildlife parks, specifically tiger parks, are the most popular reasons for travel to India,” said Madhavan Menon, Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India), adding that this, most certainly, “would result in a drop in FTA”.

Tour operators said that there has been a drop in bookings from foreign tourists this month. “July and August are the months when bookings from foreign tourists are at their peak. But this time, we haven’t seen much movement in that category. There is a 15-20 per cent drop in bookings compared to the same period last year,” said an official of a leading online travel portal.

Tour operators fear that revenues from wildlife tourism will fall by 25 per cent. “Apart from loss of future bookings, we face potential cancellations and compensations to guests who have pre-booked tours for the coming season. India faces the danger of being seen as an “unstable” destination where rules keep changing and tour operations get increasingly challenging,” Menon said.

Safari costs

For instance, operators are getting used to the closure of Madhya Pradesh parks on Wednesday afternoons and the steep hike in safari costs.

Taj Safaris said it will study the Supreme Court order and decide the next course of action. “We are told this is an interim order. We fear it will impact the tourism industry in India unless the order is clarified quickly,” said Raymond Bickson, Managing Director, Indian Hotels.

> nivedita.ganguly@thehindu.co.in

Published on August 12, 2012
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