Despite publicity blitz, Rann Utsav's occupancy levels dip 20 pc

Despite massive publicity blitzkrieg, Gujarat Tourism's much-touted brand Rann Utsav saw occupancy levels dip as low as 20 per cent during the first three weeks of the desert carnival this year. From a three-day extravaganza started by the Gujarat Tourism Department in 2005, the event has changed hands. A 100-day-long affair now, it is being managed by a private player. Around 6,500 tourists have so far attended the desert carnival that began on December 14, 2013.

Tour operators say hefty tariffs and extended period of festival is to be blamed for the dip in tourist footfalls. Last year, the event was handed over to Ahmedabad-based event management firm, Lallooji & Sons, for a period of five years under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. Subsequently, tariffs for the fest this year was hiked by over 60 per cent compared to last year.

"I cannot entirely deny that many tourists have been put off by the new tariff chart. On weekdays, we have only 30 per cent occupancy, but it rises to 50 per cent during the weekends. There were fewer foreign tourists this time from countries like Europe and the US. The maximum visitors were from Gujarat and other cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Lucknow," said Nikhil Agrawal, one of the promoters of Lallooji & Sons in Ahmedabad.

The event is witnessing a sharp decline even though the private operator has introduced additional activities, like parasailing, camel rides, ATV trail for off-roading activities, para motoring and a game zone. While the tariff for one-night package is priced at Rs 7,900 per person, for 2 nights-3 days package it is Rs 15,000. A 3 nights-4 days package would cost a tourist Rs 22,500, excluding service tax.

Another dampener, believes Agrawal, is the steep airfares from Mumbai to Bhuj. "We had requested the Gujarat tourism department to include an additional AC coach to trains plying from Mumbai to facilitate more tourists with easy rail bookings as many of them preferred trains due to expensive airfare," he added.

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