Small mercy

Andaman's tourism industry alive due to new phenomenon

Published: Friday 15 April 2005

people dependent on the tourism industry in the tsunami-hit Andaman and Nicobar islands have managed to survive despite the crash in tourist inflow. The relief workers, scientists, journalists and others visiting the islands post-disaster have provided them work: a phenomenon termed by many in the business as "disaster tourism".

"The profit level is still low but local tour operators are able to earn their livelihood due to disaster tourism," says Deepak Govind, president of Andaman and Nicobar Tourism Guild. But he adds in the same breath: "Still, the Rs 1,000 crore Andaman tourism industry is in crisis. We are earning only 40 per cent of what we earned before December 2004. This earning will continue hardly for another couple of months. What after that?" M Vinod, a travel agent, voices the same insecurity: "This earning is nothing and will not continue for long. All the bookings for the month of January and February were cancelled but for April and May I have full bookings. Many government servant and researchers are coming. But I am worried about my future."

What is most worrying is that for some reason, the Andaman administration denies the existence of "disaster tourism" as well as the slump in the tourist inflow. "Where is disaster tourism? There is normal inflow of tourists and the tourism industry has not suffered much due to the tsunami," claims Kuldeep Singh Ganger, director, Tourism Department. "We have started all tourist activities and opened all tourist spots. There is some hassle among tourists but things will normalise soon." Private tour operators allege the administration is covering up the crisis instead of sending a positive signal to attract tourists. Vinod wonders: "If everything is fine, then where are the tourists."

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