Int'l tourists skip TN after faulty red alert

CHENNAI: The Met department’s red alert forecasting heavy rain which turned out to be a false alarm has cost the tourist sector heavily with hundreds of international travellers cancelling their scheduled trips to Tamil Nadu in October, the beginning of the peak season.
Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) Tamil Nadu chapter chairman K Pandian said around 300 foreign visitors who booked tour packages have rescheduled their travel plans. “Travellers from various countries including the US and UK were scheduled to visit in eight different groups for up to two weeks. Following the red alert, the tourists chose to fly to a different country,” he said. Each tourist would have spent at least 1000 US dollars during their stay, which includes accommodation, food and transport. “It is a huge loss. The state is getting only 50% of the foreign tourists this October compared to the same period in 2017,” Pandian added.

After issuing a red alert on October 7 warning of heavy to very heavy rain, the IMD withdrew it, saying the low pressure in the Arabian Sea had not gained strength. But it had already triggered panic among a section of international travellers, leading to a slew of cancellations.

Sriharan Balan, chairman Travel Agents Association of India, Southern Region, said tour operators in the state handle almost 20,000 foreign visitors in October, largely from European countries. “But the unexpected red alert has caused severe damage, with nearly 1000 of them having cancelled their scheduled trips and about 50% making inquiries to postpone their visit. We are attempting to convince the rest by sending live videos of the current ground situation,” he said.

Sources said they were passing on the discounts accrued through appreciation of the dollar against the rupee, traditional gift items and shopping coupons for those re-confirming their tour programmes.

Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C), Yatra.com, said, “In light of the red alert issued and withdrawn by the Met department for Tamil Nadu, we have witnessed a hike in inquiries during the last couple of days with travellers seeking to reschedule their tickets. The impact of heavy rainfall in these areas was a matter of concern last month itself, making travelers extra cautious while booking their tickets.” However, as the festive season hits the market, an immediate rebound is expected in terms of bookings being made to various destinations in the state, he added.

However, Karan Anand, head relationships, Cox & Kings Ltd, said, “There have not been any cancellations for us as we update our guests on a real-time basis. Tourists travelling to India normally visit more than one state and so if there is an issue at some place, they carry on with the other leg of the tour.”