By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
A recent news item says it all: “A sharp dip in the foreigners visiting Mysuru.” A drop of 50 percent ! Alarm bells should be ringing all over but no one is bothered. Our former Tourism Minister S.R. Mahesh was more busy visiting the Mysore Race Club (MRC) and keen on converting that sprawling land into a Botanical Garden or making a Fancy Disneyland in the Brindavan Gardens. Thank God for some sane voices, the lease of the MRC got extended for 30 more years. We are safe from the power-brokers and land-sharks for three decades at least.
Mysore Race Club is a rich body with plenty of funds. Why is that they do not bother to give a facelift to the exterior of the building which is an eyesore? Broken tiles, uneven footpath, unpainted walls, closed and broken windows, the list is long.
The flow of domestic tourists has not abated and is on increase. Who is bothered about the economy of the district? How will hundreds of high-end hotels, shops, hawkers, taxis etc., survive on domestic traffic which is basically cheap tourism. I have written on this subject many a times.
For any tourism destination to survive and thrive, we require a certain portion of tourists to be elite and high class. Ideal ratio is 30 high paying tourists to 70 economy tourists. Slowly but steadily, the high paying tourists have started to vanish from this city and this was filled up by cheap foreign tourists. But the current report suggests that even this class of foreign tourists are giving this city a miss. If this trend continues sure we will be out of International Tourism Market in a few years down the line.
Fifteen years back as General Manager of Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel I could command a price of Rs.4,500 for a room and when now in 2019 if one could get a room at a top 5-Star Hotel in town for Rs. 3,000-4,000, the writing on the wall is clear.
Air connectivity is a major issue and thanks to the efforts of our MP Pratap Simha, the number of flights to the city is going up but still in smaller planes. The basic issue of Mysore Airport is that there is no guaranteed flight timings. International tourists plan their holidays years in advance and how can they plan any trips to Mysuru by air unless there are definite flight timings. With the Airport runway expansion yet to take off due to bureaucratic wranglings, regular airlines are not able to enter this market.
Another major hurdle for tourism is the high and unreasonable tax on tourist vehicles in this State. Imagine for a car valued at Rs. 6 lakh, one would have to pay a tax of 14 percent of the value cost, as per the Karnataka Vehicles Act, 1957 !
I do not agree with some experts who want a more visible “night life” in Mysuru! No tourist, international or domestic, come to Mysuru to enjoy night life! There are enough tourist destinations in India which offer such a fare. What we require is that the present infrastructure be maintained and marketed well.
Our well-known tourist spot of Devaraja Market is in a bad shape and the Government is still undecided on the future of this market. Sometimes the Government has to take hard decisions which may not please all.
With great fanfare our Maharaja was made the “Brand Ambassador” of this city. What next? No one has a clue. Of course, with no stable Government, how can one expect any governance or plan of action? Tourism is the last priority in Karnataka for ages and the same trend is continuing even now.
Dasara is fast approaching. For the event, one has to plan at least 6 months in advance. What will happen in the last minute? The same Committee will be formed, the same ideas and a repeat performance of last year’s jamboree. If only a permanent Committee was in place, as suggested by many experts, they would have gone ahead planning, leaving the execution to a later stage.
What is being done to promote Yoga in this city? On a single day, that is the Yoga Day, all the Officials, Yoga Experts, Swamijis join and have a big event in the Race Course and forget about Yoga for the rest 364 days. If Mysuru is getting Yoga students year-by-year it is just because of the reputation of our Yoga Schools internationally, and not because of any dismal marketing done by our Tourism Department.
As I was writing this, I read a news. Rs. 97 crore was earmarked for developing Coastal Tourism by Government of India [Swadesh Darshan]. When all our neighbouring States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have submitted projects and got the sanctioned grant, our Department of Tourism did not even submit any project reports to the Centre! All the coastal regions could have benefited with these funds. Sheer negligence.
I am a proud Mysurean and feel happy only when I visit other cities like Bengaluru, because in comparison, Mysuru is still better off. But international tourists will be completely off this city in near future unless we buck up and make concrete efforts to bring them back. Do you agree? [[email protected]]