In three months, number of passengers per day has dropped from 73 to 45
The Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) has reported 40 to 50 per cent drop in the number of trips, pilgrims and revenue from its daily package tour to Tirupati during August and September due to the ongoing strike against bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. From April to July, TTDC ferried over 8,300 pilgrims that fetched over Rs.1.11 crore. The agitation has led to fall in the number of passengers to 2,300 and revenue of Rs.30.50 lakh for August and September. In the last three months, the number of passengers per day has dropped from 73 to 45 against 80-90 in the first four months.
Official sources said that they had to suspend package tours on five days during August and two days in September. Anticipating a huge crowd for Brahmotsavam, trips for Wednesday (Garuda Sevai), Saturday and Sunday have been cancelled.
TTDC has been operating two buses to Tirupati on a daily basis. It faces fierce competition from other tour operators such as Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, India Tourism Development Corporation and private operators.
On an average, TTDC carries 100 passengers a day. However, tours are not operated on festival days, particularly if it falls on Saturday or Sunday. Though luxury buses have a seating capacity of 50, sometimes smaller buses are operated to minimise loss.
Sixteen trips were operated in August carrying 1,171 pilgrims, while in September it was 19 trips with 1,160 passengers. During October, the buses were operated for five days carrying 245 pilgrims, with October 2 alone accounting for 100 persons.
Talking to The Hindu, a TTDC official said: “Despite all the negative news, we continue to operate this tour as it is most sought after because of factors such as safety, assured darshan, lunch and breakfast and same-day return. We have never suspended our trips halfway. We start early in the morning to ensure that our customers are not left in the lurch. As a precautionary measure, we stopped operating on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Another official said several tourists from Andhra had been visiting Chennai on regular basis to take part in the Southern trip. “It is a two-way loss for tourism sector, particularly for pilgrimage tours,” he said.
A sentence in “Stir in Tirupati makes a dent in TTDC revenue" (Oct. 11, 2013, some editions) read: “From April to July, TTDC ferried over 8,300 pilgrims that fetched over Rs.111 crore.” The amount should have been Rs.1.11 crore.