Tribune News Service
Amritsar, February 19
The local tourism industry, which is still battling the effects of Covid-19-induced economic crisis and railway line blockade by farmers, feels a year isn’t enough to lift the sagging morale of those in the profession.
From providing employment to those in luxury hotels to rickshaw pullers, those associated with it were cooped at homes for months and looking forward to a nice change. But then, their salaries and income got contracted.
Piyush Kapoor, general manager of Ritz, said the peak winter season was about to end and room occupancy in most of the hotels remained below 40 per cent. Though the weather was pleasant, trains, barring an average of four daily trains, were off track and air travel was yet to pick-up. Most tourists coming by personal vehicles were from within the state, who do not stay in the city at night.
For instance, he says, management of his hotel did not open the establishment as most of the hotels on the Mall were not drawing enough customers. “In such a scenario, operational cost is very high. A year is nothing and it will take at least two to three years to reach the level of business that used to be there before the pandemic,” he says. Citing the instance of Goa, he says, it was the most happening place as far as the tourism industry in the country was concerned with 1,500 hotels. Yet, half of the hotels have not opened there.
‘Create international-level recreation parks’
APS Chatha, president of the Amritsar Hotel and Restaurant Association, said: “High investment tourism-oriented projects such as international-level recreation parks are required to attract tourists, who now value their investment and weigh several options before going out.” He said fussy customers were out and a large section of families were yet to come to terms with the dwindling income and rising expenses. Scarcity of customers led to 50 per cent fall in room tariff in the local market. Hospitality players have spare time to devote in devising new projects.
‘Promote rural tourism’
Rameshinder Singh Sandhu, a freelance travel writer, opines: “With lean tourism season under way, it is high time the government chalked out strategies to promote rich authentic Punjabi rural tourism. This will not require huge investment either.”
So far, tourism remained city-centric as major tourist highlights including the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh, Durgiana temple, Gobindgarh fort, Sadda Pind and war museum were located within the city. These sites hardly offer two-night stay, despite the city possessing an array of luxury and mid-segment properties in the hospitality sector.
So, the youth from rural areas of this border district had not been able to get any benefit out of the booming tourism industry.
Rural tourism has almost been ignored all these years. Though some attempts such as an amphibious bus in Hari Ke Pattan wetland were introduced, it could not be popularised among visitors.
Considering stunning countryside, known for its natural beauty, sightseeing tours can be commenced, which will be an introduction to a free exhibition on nature, he said.
“There are several villages that have rich history, memorials and monuments. Efforts must be made to promote these. Take Bhakna for instance, the village of famous freedom fighter Sohan Singh Bhakna — the founder of Ghadar Party. On the other hand, the age-old Sarai Amant Khan thankfully is well-preserved with its Mughal architecture. It was once a popular stop for rest, when the road it is located on was the main route to Lahore.”
In addition, certain houses can also be chosen, which have still preserved their old-age charm, as it can be a delight for tourists.
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