Is the Holy city’s appeal waning for foreign tourists?


VARANASI – Is the attraction of one of the oldest living cities in the world waning for the foreign tourists? If the recent reports of regional
tourism office, under UP state tourism department (UPSTD) are to be believed, the holy city is definitely not the favourite tourist destination for these tourists.

While the reports of regional tourism office suggest that the number of foreign tourists visiting the holy city in a year has gone down in the last decade (1998-2008), an interesting change of taste is being witnessed in the form of foreign tourists shifting to budget hotels, especially tourist lodges, facing the riverfront of holy Ganga, mainly to cope with global economic recession.

As per report of the regional tourism office, while 1,32,588 foreign tourists visited the city in 1998, the figure dropped to 1,32,468 in 2008, enough to indicate the impact of global economic recession.

The regional tourist officer, Dinesh Kumar, said “the impact of global economic recession has been only marginal in the city. The domestic tourists with their figure touching almost four million in a year have compensated well during the crisis. The place is known for religious tourism and it has done well even during the recession phase.”

However, even he could not deny the fact that while the region was witnessing the growth of foreign tourists to the tune of 10 per cent per year, the rate has gone down to almost six per cent in the last two years.

Similarly, with more foreign tourists shifting their accommodation to budget hotels, especially the tourist lodges built on the bank of Ganga, the five-star and other luxurious hotels have faced the brunt of the economic recession.

According to D N Singh, owner of travel agency in Cantonment area, “while the five-star hotels that enjoyed the luxury of over 90 per cent occupancy during the peak tourist season (October to March) before the economic recession, are now struggling to maintain the occupancy rate of 75 per cent. On the other hand, the budget hotels and low-cost tourist lodges are witnessing full occupancy during the peak season.”