GUWAHATI, Nov 6 - The State tourism and hospitality sector is eyeing a turnover of Rs 200 crore from the ongoing Brahmaputra Pushkar festival, proclaimed as a major pilgrimage event for the people of South Indian states.
Amid concerns about �misuse� of public money on organising the river festival, which was hitherto unknown to the people of Assam, groups of hoteliers and tour operators claimed that the festival was fetching a good number of tourists from the southern states, generating business in transportation, accommodation, wildlife, handloom and handicraft segments.
Though the 12-day festival, which got under way at the Sonaram High School Field at Bharalumukh, Guwahati on Tuesday, is organised by the Purva Tirupathi Sri Balaji Samiti of Guwahati and Chennai-based Sri Mahalakshmi Charitable Trust, the State government drew flak from sections of people, especially on social media, about promoting new events like Namami Brahmaputra and Pushkar festival, spending lakhs of money from public exchequer.
According to an estimate, every day a total of 10 to 18 thousand people are expected to take a holy dip in the Brahmaputra during the festival that will continue till November 16.
�When online queries started popping up about the festival in May and June, we did not have much idea about the event. However, the response has been encouraging so far and we are receiving more inquiries regarding the tour packages of Guwahati-Shillong and Guwahati-Kaziranga,� Arijit Purkayastha, founder secretary of the Tour Operators Association of Assam told The Assam Tribune.
He added that the largest number of bookings has been made by middle aged and elderly people from Hyderabad, followed by Bengaluru.
Refuting the claims that Assam has nothing to gain from such events, ATDC chairman Jayanta Malla Baruah said though the State government will not earn any direct revenue, overall the tourism and hospitality sector will get no less than Rs 200 crore from the event.
�Nearly three lakh people are expected to attend the festival, so the associated sectors like hotels, transport, tour operators, other shops and businesses would definitely benefit. Considering more than 90 per cent occupancy of hotels, guest houses and lodges, increased demand of tour packages and good response to the hop-on hop-off (HOHO) buses, we can expect a good business,� he said.
State tourism director Deba Kumar Mishra also confirmed that his department was getting good feedback from the field. �We are not hosting the festival; rather, we are giving the logistical support. A total 15 electric buses of ASTC are running at regular intervals for ten destinations. However, Kamakhya and Umananda temples are the most sought after destinations for the devotees of South India. Tourists are availing the HOHO facility at Rs 251 for one day and Rs 451 for two days. Further, new sets of tourists are arriving in the city and the numbers are likely to swell up in the coming days,� he said.
�The response of the Brahmaputra Pushkar festival has been tremendous so far. Most of our members have reported that batches of people are booking hotels for short duration, followed by the next batch. I met a group of senior citizens who are regular to all the 12 Pushkars held in different parts of the country. They were collecting local artifacts from the State emporium,� said Deepak Jalan, immediate past president of the Hotels and Restaurants Association of Assam.