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Global slowdown hits tourism industry in Karnataka

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Sharath S. Srivatsa

Number of tourists has fallen by 70 per cent in first seven months of 2008

BANGALORE: Tourist inflow into Karnataka has plummeted during 2008, leaving the industry in dire straits. The number of tourists visiting Karnataka has fallen by 70 per cent during the first seven months of the year, compared to last year. About 64 lakh tourists visited the State between January and July 2008 as against 2.1 crore during the corresponding period in 2007.

A little over 73,500 foreign tourists visited the State between January and July 2008. Over 2.41 lakh foreigners visited the State during the same period in 2007, according to figures compiled by the Tourism Department.

“The global slowdown has affected the inflow of tourists to Karnataka, and we are planning new programmes to attract tourists,” Tourism Director K. Vishwanatha Reddy told The Hindu.

Karnataka received over 3.82 crore tourists in 2007 of which about 5.34 lakh were foreign nationals. In 2006, there were 3.66 crore tourists, including about 5.05 lakh foreign visitors. In 2005, there were 3.04 crore tourists, of whom 5.45 lakh were foreigners.

The State is among the top five tourist destinations in India and the sector employs over half a million people directly and indirectly.

Though tourist arrivals in the second half of the year are usually high, on account of the Dasara festivities in Mysore and the Hampi Utsav, overall inflows this year are likely to be substantially lower than in previous years, a department official said. “We anticipate tourist inflows to come down by about 20 per cent,” the official said.

In January 2008, Karnataka received 12.84 lakh tourists, compared to 44.97 lakh in the corresponding month of 2007.

There were 7.93 lakh tourist arrivals in February 2008, compared to 22.95 lakh in February 2007. June and July were particularly bad for the industry. Only 7.58 lakh and 7.61 lakh tourists visited the State in June and July 2008, respectively, compared to 30 lakh and 32 lakh tourists during the corresponding months of 2007.

The slump has resulted in lower occupancy levels, causing concern in the hospitality sector. “Occupancy levels in hotels across all categories have dropped, and foreign arrivals have declined by about 40 per cent. Business during September and October, which are usually busy months, was also not great,” said Vyshak Anand, director of Mysore-based Vivek Hotels.

He said, “The impact is more pronounced on budget hotels since people have generally been affected by the price rise in the recent months. Corporate demand has also slowed down.”

The exorbitant entry tax levied in Karnataka on tourist vehicles is a major deterrent for mass tourism, especially from the neighbouring States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, said Mr. Vyshak.

“We get a large number of tourists travelling in tourist buses from neighbouring States, and the high entry tax has affected this segment,” he added.

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