Representative pic
Representative pic

Bhopal: Lifting of lockdown brought a huge relief to numerous travel enthusiasts in the state. Their more than a year long ‘roomvas’ is now over and to head towards ‘vans’ (forests) they require funds.

Tourism in Madhya Pradesh is picking up as people were feeling bored at ‘stay home’ and are now resorting to revenge travelling. Monsoon has also added to the fervour.

The private tourism industry has, however, suffered a significant blow during the pandemic. Inflation that followed the lockdown has already hiked the package rates. Additionally, restrictions imposed due to the anticipated third wave have added to the stack.

Visiting domestic destinations in small groups appears to be the most popular type of travel while the virus is still there.

A tour planner in Dhuandhar Falls, Aditya Shrivastav, told Free Press that previously, the visitors to the exotic tourist spot outside Jabalpur would opt for shared packages as it helped them save costs.

In the past, if there was a group of five, they would join with others until there were around 10 to 14 people. That way, the rental charges of the boat would not be high, he said

He further said that the two groups he led last week, each comprised five people and to avoid joining other groups, they were willing to pay more for the rentals.

They agreed to pay more because they felt safer in a private group, Shrivastav explained. Mishi, a tour coordinator from Junoon Adventures, said their agency has always been on a bit expensive side of the graph as they hold exclusive activities on a normal tour.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has made it difficult for them to plan affordable adventure trips. Firstly, she said, they have to limit the capacity in their batches. They used to take about 30 people before pandemic, she said.

Mishi said that the hike in prices of petrol and diesel has placed an extra burden on their shoulders. There has been about 15% increase in the package rates, she said. She would generally charge Rs 5,500 for a trip from Bhopal to Marhai but now she is charging Rs 6,500 plus taxes, added Mishi.

Safety comes at a price: Chhatrapal Parajapati, the founder of Nadan Parinde tour group in the state capital, said unlike in the pre-coronavirus days, he discovered that the groups preferred to have private tours instead of shared packages. He said the pandemic has imprinted fear into people's psyche that is not going to go anytime soon. Though people will no more get a chance to meet new people during their trips, precaution is mandatory, he said. To keep the travellers safe, they do not take hotel food on their trips, instead they cook at their destination, which costs them extra, he said.

Only affluent can afford: A final-year BTech student and travel enthusiast, Shreya Siddharth, said she has been travelling since she was 16. She used to join groups as it would help her parents feel safe and less concerned about her. She was waiting for the lockdown to go to Bahuti waterfalls in Mauganj. When she approached one of the groups that was organising a trip there, she was surprised with the package rate. She said she could not afford it with the pocket money she gets from her family. The pandemic has proven that such hobbies are only meant for the people with deep pockets.

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