GUWAHATI: Assam’s prime tourist destination Kaziranga National Park is bleeding from the ongoing protests against controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
Park authorities said revenues generated from tourists had dropped by around 50%. The revenues are generated from entry fees, jeep and elephant safaris and accommodation in forest guest houses. Not many tourists visited the park this December, largely due to the fear of getting stranded.
The park’s director P Sivakumar told this newspaper that the park usually generates revenues of around Rs 3 crore by the end of December. It was somewhere around Rs 1.8 crore this year.
“It’s a huge loss. This is the peak season when we get a lot of tourists, particularly from West Bengal. However, due to the CAA-related issue, they are not coming to the park. There has been also a significant drop in the inflow of foreign tourists,” Sivakumar said.
He said on average, the park generates revenues of about Rs 5 crore to Rs 6 crore a year. From Rs 5.6 crore in 2017-18, the revenues dipped to Rs 4.8 crore in 2018-19 due to protests on the same issue.
Whenever there is a sudden call of bandh, tourists cannot have their regular programmes. When they visit Kaziranga, they also go to other places in other states of the Northeast. So, if they feel they cannot visit one place, they cancel the entire trip, he said.
“There have been a lot of cancellations of booking of rooms in hotels and guest houses by the tourists from outside Assam this year. We usually get a good number of trainees from Tamil Nadu Forest Academy, Andhra Pradesh Forest Academy, Indian Institute of Forest Management etc. All programmes have been cancelled,” Sivakumar said.
He said curfew clamped in Guwahati for a few days recently had also sent a negative message to tourists. This is also the time for picnic on the park’s periphery but few people are coming.
Sivakumar said a lot of people, involved in conservation, eco-tourism and transportation-related business at Kaziranga, had been adversely affected.
Some locals eking out a living from jeep safaris said they were sitting idle at a time when they usually do not get time to eat their lunch.
“I was told usually some 200 jeeps take tourists inside the park in December. This year, not even 20 of them are busy,” the state’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Assam Tourism Development Corporation chairman Jayanta Malla Baruah said several countries such as the USA, the UK, the UAE, Canada, Taiwan etc had issued travel advisories to their citizens asking them not to visit Assam now.