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Bookings down,tourism sector gets flu bug after slowdown

As if the global slowdown was not enough,the swine flu is now set to choke the Indian hospitality industry as summer hastens arrival of the traditional holiday season.

Written by Leher Kala | New Delhi |
May 2, 2009 2:02:34 am

But travel agents,hoteliers expect twin effects to buoy up domestic tourism

As if the global slowdown was not enough,the swine flu is now set to choke the Indian hospitality industry as summer hastens arrival of the traditional holiday season.

The silver lining,though,lies in that both factors could also mean fewer Indians travelling abroad this summer,leading to more occupancy here,many resort and hotel owners say.

Agents acknowledge they have far fewer bookings compared to May last year but add that it’s too early to say whether that is a result of the swine flu outbreak in the West. But they admit a slowdown in bookings in the last three days. Experts say worldwide apprehension after the World Health Organisation raised the threat level from the disease could affect inflow of tourists flying into India.

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According to information,hotel occupancy and tariff across Delhi and the NCR have dropped more than 20 per cent in the past few months.

Thomas C T,the spokesperson for SOTC,however,says global slowdown is the main reason for the relative slump in the hospitality industry this year. “There is also a dip in revenue on foreign tours because package prices are 15 to 20 per cent lower this year,” Thomas says. “Those who have not booked yet have adopted a wait and watch policy.”

Most tour operators expect bookings to pick up around mid-May as long as the swine flu does not spread further to the US.

“Families in India traditionally take holidays in May or June. The swine flu could have a cascading effect on our hotels though our rates have become more realistic but it is too early to say anything,” says Inder Singh Kochcher of Sawera Hospitality. Kochcher also runs the Lodhi Restaurant in Delhi,and hotels in Pushkar and Jaipur.

He says the group has confirmed bookings for May from clients in Spain and Turkey that have not been cancelled yet. Rakesh Gautam,manager of The Ashok Country Resort in Kapashera,a popular spa weekend destination,says the resort is running at under 30-per cent occupancy,despite an ongoing 45 per cent discount. But that is not due to the swine flu,he reasons,for “tourism is going through a tough phase”.

As a spin-off,though,hoteliers expect domestic tourism to pick up this summer because of tighter holiday budgets and the swine flu affecting air travel. Kochcher says,“This year,we are optimistic about (bookings from) more Indians who may not want to travel abroad,but need a quick getaway.”

For instance,hoteliers in Shimla and Manali,who had lost out to Southeast Asia of late,expect a better season this year.

Swine flu effect: Pork gets the chop

With the Capital raising its alert following the swine flu outbreak,and the fear of pork and pork products gaining momentum, Debesh Banerjee does a round of the eateries to take stock:

“It is too early to judge the effect but as a precaution we have taken out pork byproducts from the hotel — like pork chops,pork loin and leg of pork — because they need to be cooked in the hotel properly. It is a fact that swine flu does not spread through the meat but we are not serving certain dishes like pork belly at Wasabi and pork ribs in the House of Ming to respect wishes of the guests.”

Amit Chowdhury,executive chef,Taj Mahal Hotel

“People have become very conscious of where pork items are coming from and how it is being cooked. We have not received any orders for pork items for the past two days. Though we try and convince guests that pork is not from the fresh supply,the customers are not convinced. We have stopped sourcing pork.”

Naveen,assistant manager,Sidewok,Khan Market

“There has been more than a 20-per cent decline in sale of pork and cheese products. Though we keep only imported packaged pork products,there’s a panic among consumers. We advise our consumers on how to store pork products in this climate,but to no avail. We have already retuned four or five packets of pork products to our suppliers; we will have to take more steps in the coming days.”

Achal Pathak,senior employee,Sugar and Spice,Khan Market

“We have not seen any impact on the sale of pork products since most of our products,which are from Spain and Italy,specify hygiene conditions on the pack. Also,most of our clientele belongs to the expatriate community and they areconvinced about the authenticity of the product.”

Satish,store manager,Le Marche,Vasant Vihar

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