With the tagline ‘Vote before going on a holiday’, travel and tour operators in Mysuru have announced that they would deny taxi bookings from local tourists and holidaymakers on the days of election (April 18 and 23) to stop them from skipping voting.
A similar move is planned by the hotel operators in Kodagu. This has opened up a debate on whether such an initiative goes beyond “persuading” people to vote.
Interestingly, the move of tour operators and hoteliers comes a day after Shivamogga Deputy Commissioner directed authorities to ask owners of hotels and resorts in the district not to book rooms for those who skip voting and come seeking accommodation.
Launching ‘No Voting, No Booking’ campaign, the stakeholders associated with Mysore Travels Association (MTA) said some travel desks in hotels here had already “rejected” some bookings on the grounds that they coincided with the polling date. However, the customers were promised rooms if they come with an inked finger after casting their ballot.
While some stakeholders in the tourism industry have questioned the rationale behind the “diktat” since it appears like forcing people to vote rather than persuading them to exercise their franchise, some have welcomed the step citing continued voter indifference, especially from urban electorate.
“Can’t people spare a day once in five years to vote responsibly?” asked Mysore Travels Association president B.S. Prashanth, while defending his association’s step besides welcoming the diktat to the hospitality industry.
However, Mysore Hotel Owners’ Association president Narayana Gowda took a different stand on the issue. “The authorities should encourage people to vote taking up various activities instead of compelling them to cast their ballot by denying hotel bookings,” he argued. But his counterpart in Kodagu welcomed the move, saying that people have a tendency of go out on vacation on the day of voting instead of going to the booth.
B.R. Nagendra Prasad, president, Kodagu Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants Association, said Kodagu tourism is facing crisis since last year’s landslides and the occupancy is not even 20%. “Yet, we have taken the stand of denying bookings on April 18 to facilitate voting,” he said.
Mr. Prashanth said the travel operators here agreed to the stand taken on not accepting bookings for taxis on polling dates and day before the polling dates in response to a cause. “We don’t mind losing business but want to send a message,” he said.
With at least 50% of travellers who book hotels, resorts and homestays in Kodagu being from the Information Technology industry in Bengaluru, especially during long weekends, tourism stakeholders say that the move of the operators might end up improving voting percentage in the State capital.
Mr. Prasad, however, insisted that their move should not be read as “compelling” people to vote. “Our decision is not like compelling people to vote but an appeal to participate in the election process to avoid regretting later for having not chosen the right representative.”