BRICS tourism convention: No euphoria; residents more worried about basic problems

Khajuraho: Anirban Roy, The two-day BRICS Convention on Tourism is all set to begin in the temple city from Thursday and will be attended by tourism ministers and officials of all the five BRICS countries.

BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Even as the economy of the World Heritage site is dependent on tourism, local people connected with the industry believe that convening the BRICS tourism event at Khajuraho has no meaning if the Centre and the state governments fail to address the basic problems of the people.
“Why is the convention being held here, and not in New Delhi?” AP Sylvan, owner of Raj Ganapathy Travels asked adding that the government should realise that more than 7,000 families of the temple city are directly engaged in the tourism industry and the economy is all set to crumple.
Built roughly around 1,000 years back, the sculptures on the walls of the temples of Khajuraho have ceased to attract foreign tourists. The city hosted 98,287 foreign visitors in 2012 and the number went declined to 79,846 in 2013, 71,377 in 2014 and 65,236 in 2015.
Sylvan, who worked with Air India for over three-decades, said the number is going to be lower this time. “How can we expect foreign tourists to come here when there is no connectivity?”
There is no direct rail connectivity with major cities, and roads leading to the destination are also in a bad condition.
“You will be shocked to know that there is only one Air India flight from Delhi via Varanasi and that too for only three days a week,” Mohit Shrivastava, manager of Travel Assistance — the largest local excursion handling agent of Khajuraho — said.
Shrivastava said the one-way flight fare from Delhi to Khajuraho is as high as Rs 13,000 to 15,000 from October to March. He alleged that the flow of foreign tourist this year was 40% less compared to 2015.
“This event (BRICS convention) has created more problems for our poor vendors on the footpath near the western temple complex,” Sylvan said. “The administration has asked the vendors on the footpath to remove their stalls for the next two days. But, who is going to compensate for their loss?”
Anil Pratap Singh of Grey Hornbill Travels said the organisers of BRICS convention should have taken inputs from them to lay the foundation of the discussion. “Unfortunately, this year because of excessive rain, flow of Indian tourists is also low. In 2015, number of Indian tourists increased to 3,07,377 in 2015 from 2,59,790 in 2014.”
The BRICS Tourism event has been choreographed by the ministry of tourism and ITDC officials, while the state government will host a dinner and a cultural programme.
The summit would witness presentations by tourism departments of different states while an exhibition of traditional handicrafts and handlooms is also slated to be held on the sidelines of the summit.
Vinod Zutshi, secretary of the ministry of tourism, said Khajuraho was selected for the convention because it was the best destination for showcase.