The temporary ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves has taken a financial toll on the Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR), which maintains wildlife and natural properties across the State.
Left with no opportunity to go on a tiger safari, tourists who had made advance bookings at the Kabini River Lodge, Bandipur Safari Lodge, River Tern Lodge and K Gudi Wilderness Camp, are besieging JLR offices to get refunds. The ban was imposed by the State government on July 25 in line with a Supreme Court order.
Between July 25 and August 10, JLR refunded Rs 37 lakh to around 1,200 people, who had made advance bookings. Staff at the accounts and sales wings of JLR said the last 15 days had been hectic. In some instances, customers sought refund of only the safari amount, while several customers wanted the entire package charge returned.
A few optimists are yet to cancel their bookings, in the hope that the Supreme Court may reverse the decision in its final order to be pronounced on August 22.
Jungle Lodges had offered discounts to boost business during the monsoon season, which usually witnesses low occupancy.
This had subsequently spiked bookings in the four properties. Following the apex court ban, occupancy at Kabini dropped from almost 100 per cent to 30 per cent, while Bandipur saw a fall from 70 to 20 per cent, said R K Singh, executive director of JLR.
Singh conceded that the ban affected JLR’s business. “Firstly, we are not into business. Our objective is to send across the message of conservation.
Yes, the revenues will be affected. In fact, a large chunk of the revenue generated will go into tiger conservation activities and betterment of habitat for the wildlife. It will be a blessing in disguise if the order is reversed,” he said.
Singh said JLR will now focus on nature studies and nature trail. “We want to change the mindset of people, which is mostly tiger centric.
We want to tell them that there are other nuances of wildlife and nature, which they can experience through the JLR properties,” Singh said.
Jungle Lodges generated revenue of Rs 33.25 crore in 2011-12.
It earned Rs 12.31 crore between April and July this year. In July alone, it billed over Rs 2 crore.
Last year, around 21,000 people stayed at Kabini, while 5,250 people stayed at K Gudi. While 10,500 people chose to stay at Bandipur, River Tern Lodge had 7,200 guests.