Pune: Last year on July 16, thousands lost their life and hundreds others were struggling to stay alive after flash floods swept Kedarnath. For tour organizers, that promised this journey to Gods abode, say that the industry has never seen such a slump in the market for destinations to the North.
Tour manager of Prasanna travels, Rahul Dhotre, feels that people have not recovered from the disaster last year and hence are not willing to travel to the north. He said, “We have stopped trips to Kedarnath and its vicinity completely and are waiting for the infrastructure in these places to be restored if not improved.” He said that almost no hotels are running even after a year, because the roads that lead to these have been swept away and not been restored. “The temples, however, are open now for pooja but we are not accepting any bookings,” he said.
Other leading agencies from Pune are taking a similar call when it comes to arranging trips to Uttarakhand. Shweta Rao, the executive manager at Cox and Kings travel agency, said, “The number of inquiries, let alone bookings, has decreased drastically compared to the year before this calamity. On the other hand, there has been a rise in the bookings for places such as Kashmir, Ladakh and Darjeeling.”
While tour agencies wait for the infrastructure to be rebuilt before tourism resumes, Dhotre feels that the government needs to make stringent rules and regulations for these trips. He said, “There have not been any changes in legal rules and regulations for tourism agencies. The steps taken by the agency, for the safety of the tourists, remains standard.”
Rao concurs that there have been no new instructions for travel agencies. “We make it mandatory for guests to have legal travel insurance and brief them about the points to remember before any journey to the north.”
Soniya Vaidya assistant manager of Leisure Travels also feels that the follow up by government authorities for those missing has been poor and no strict steps have been taken to ensure security of people traveling to Kedarnath. On asking her about the attempts made by the agency to increase the number of tourists, Rao said, “Although, we have made attractive offers and also reduced the air fares, it was not very effective. We still have no positive response.” Vaidya on the other said, “Even though there is no requirement, we are ready to take people for trips and we have our packages and offers ready.”