By: ML Sharma
Kullu: Unchecked and exorbitant air packages being offered for the Delhi-Kullu-Delhi flights has not only hit tourism in the area, but has also put a question mark on the attitude of the Himachal government seriousness in promoting tourism in the state.
High cost of travel to the state has given an opportunity to tourists to look for other destinations as fares and packages on international sectors to South East Asia, Far-East and even Europe are cheaper. A package from Delhi to Kullu and back is costing around Rs 26,500/- on Kingfisher and Air India flights while return ticket to Kuala Lumpur from Delhi is approximately Rs. 12,000.
A passenger could get cheaper return tickets to London from Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkota and other major cities in India than to Kullu said, Atul Sharma, a frequent flyer and an hotelier in Kullu. Another traveler termed the fares to be “criminal”. The 70 minute flight from Delhi to Kullu is expensive than a three-hour flight to Trivendrum from Delhi, he added.
Subhash Chander Sharma, president, Travel Agents Association here, said that the fare structure on this sector should be revised to a justifiable level. “The Civil Aviation ministry should direct other major airlines to operate in the Delhi-Kullu-Delhi sector under the “open sky” rules for connecting smaller stations with trunk routes.” He added that the national career, Air India, should operate regular daily flights, preferably direct flights, from Delhi to Kullu and other airports in Himachal Pradesh. As of now, Air India is having four times a week flight from Kullu to Delhi via Pathankot.
Anil Sharma, president, Manali Travel Agents Association, alleged that the local politicians have shown indifference towards the issue as no one has taken up the matter with higher authorities. “The associations of travel agents and hoteliers have been demanding increase in regular flights to Kullu but none of the political leaders, whether the Congress or the BJP ever initiated any move,” he said. He criticized the Himachal Pradesh tourism department for being unaware of the tourism potential in the state and putting hurdles in coming up of tourism projects that could increase tourist flow to the state. “The government should shun its indifferent attitude and come forward to the rescue of diminishing tourism to the state.” He further alleged that the department was happy with the increasing figures of tourists, but never bothers to check the quality of tourists they were receiving.
He said quality tourist would prefer to have the most convenient mode of transport, which is air connectivity, or would choose for other available destinations. “The fares being charged by Air India and Kingfisher Red are killing our tourism,” he added.