Column: Room for more

Written by Surabhi Agarwal | Updated: Jan 28 2010, 02:37am hrs
For quite some time the countrys top policymakers have been losing sleep over hosting approximately one lakh tourists that are expected for the Commonwealth Games in October this year. While the tourism ministry debated whether so many tourists would actually come to India for the Games, it struggled to find the required rooms in the national capital region. The tourism ministry is relatively relaxed now as it feels that its plans have paid off and some 40,000 rooms would be ready on time. However, the worries havent disappeared completely.

As reported by this newspaper recently, there are over 4,000 rooms that are still to come up in the region. Though several hospitality companies have committed to start operations before the Games, they could go for partial openings in case they are not able to complete projects on time. Market estimates say that only about 50% of the current room inventory under construction would come up before the Games, as hospitality is a highly fund-intensive and time-consuming business. This could make the numbers go completely awry.

As a last resort, the ministry has got guesthouses on board, which comprise over one-fourth of the total inventory with 11,000 rooms. However, there is a quality issue with hosting foreign tourists in guesthouses, many of which may not be up to the mark in service. Experts say that cities like Beijing and Melbourne were better prepared.

While DDA is pitching in with apartments that would be converted into 5,500 rooms, there is a larger issue of getting the basic amenities and facilities in place, which has still not happened. Even senior ministry officials are worried about this bit. Above all these issues, looms the manpower shortage issue. Where is the required trained manpower to service so many tourists Though the ministry has begun programmes for training staff, there is no data on how many have actually enrolled. Even if the ministrys efforts to cobble up the numbers are note-worthy, guesthouses and DDA apartments are mere compromises, which could reflect badly on the countrys tourism industry as a whole. And 1,00,000 tourists is a lot of bad publicity.