Seemandhra agitation affects travel, hospitality sectors

Tourism forms the backbone of the economy of the temple town, which can be gauged by the burgeoning travel and hospitality industry.

The fortnight-long agitation, which reached a flashpoint with the bandh call on Tuesday, gave a serious jolt to Tirupati’s tourism industry, what with the inflow plummeting to rock-bottom. Most hotels are concentrated around the APSRTC central bus station and railway station areas, forming the city’s core area, which has now turned deserted. Several hotels failed to register even a third of the booking they used to get in normal days.

The last weekend, tagged with Ramzan holiday, turned out to be a silver-lining, when the inflow was relatively steady. “The ‘muhurthams’ witnessed during the last three days also helped us get business to some extent”, explained A.Ravishankar Reddy, general manager of Hotel Bliss.

Generally, the passenger footfall is comparatively high in Tirupati during the months of August and December, as several NRIs plan a visit home. It is during these months that they plan a visit to Tirumala. August also coincides with the auspicious ‘Sravana Masam’ of Hindu calendar and is considered a good time for a pilgrimage. However, the turnout was abysmally low this fortnight. “We suffered a 75 per cent fall in occupancy.

The local residents also preferred to stay away from the restaurant due to the charged atmosphere, though the evenings are calm”, avers Bhasker Kommu, group general manager of Minerva Hotels. While the group’s Vijayawada property witnessed 50-60 per cent decline, Tirupati was even worse at 75 per cent.

While the movement of corporate clients was close to zero, the pilgrims also adopted a cautious approach.

Due to the highway blockade and the spate of agitations on the roads, the travel industry suffered a serious setback. Many pilgrims stuck to their Tirumala schedule and cancelled their visit to other temples in Srikalahasti, Kanipakam, Vepanjeri, Narayanavanam and Aragonda.

But the aviation sector has almost remained untouched.

“Traffic remained affected by 10-12 p.c. for the first three days of the agitation, while it has been steady after that”, says C. Pattabhi, Director of Tirupati airport. The business and political classes, forming a major chunk of the air travellers, have remained insulated from the agitation.