The shrill cry of integrationists agitating for a united Andhra Pradesh is growing louder by the day resulting in intensification of the ‘Samaikyandhra’ protest. The frequent bandhs, road blockades and the series of other forms of protests have hit almost all sectors, but the tourism sector seems to be an exception.
“The strike impact on the AP Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) properties in this (Vijayawada) region is not much. In fact, business has improved in the last few days,” says the Tourism Corporation’s Divisional Manager T. Baboji. According to him, the strike has in fact helped the local tourism. “Roads are frequently blocked. People are sitting idle because of regular bandhs and so they visit local tourist destinations,” he says.
In the picturesque Bhavani Island, says Mr. Baboji, business has improved from an average 17 per cent in the recent past to 36-40 per cent now. “All 22 rooms at the Suryalanka Beach resort in Guntur district are continuously full. People from places like Bangalore and Hyderabad book cottages online and visit these places,” he informs.
Speaking with enthusiasm about a food festival being planned at Bhavani Island, Mr. Baboji says a boat race (padava pandaalu) is also proposed to be conducted on the Krishna on the eve of World Tourism Day on September 27. Cash prizes of Rs. 5,000, Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 2,000 would be given to the first three winners respectively, he says. He however admits that there are not many takers for boating at Durga Ghat due to decline in the pilgrim rush. Contradicting the Tourism official’s version is the hospitality industry which, the stakeholders say, is bleeding under the strike impact.
“Absence of proper transport facility, frequent disruptions of traffic on highways has kept tourists at bay. A holidayer would obviously like to have a peaceful time. We are going through a period of uncertainty. Occupancy rate in hotels has nosedived. Tourist influx in hotels from Visakhapatnam to Tirumala is almost nil,” laments K. Pattabhi Ram, president of Vijayawada Hoteliers Association.
Pointing to the fact that the hoteliers are part of the ‘Samaikyandhra’ stir, Mr. Pattabhi Ram says people are “as angry as they are worried”. Despite the intensity of the problem, the government has not made any effort to calm down the agitators. Nobody knows for how long the impasse will continue. This silence is killing us all,” he says.