Hoteliers up in arms against low-budget Andaman tourism

Mumbai: What started as a noble intention of reviving tourism to the tropical islands has now come full circle, with Andaman-based tour operators and hotel owners protesting against a scheme to fly-in budget tourists.

These budget tourists, they say, are proving counterproductive unlike visits by wealthier travellers, and consequently to the island''s tourism revenue.

Islanders, part of the local tourism industry, now say that these hordes of cost-conscious visitors are putting a strain on the island''s tourism resources, without generating much needed income.

Accounting largely for daylong trips, the budget travellers come, see and leave, some without as much as spending any significant amount. Estimates put the number of visitors to the islands at 150,000, with almost 80 per cent of them being low-wage state employees.

In a bid to revive tourism to the tsunami-ravaged islands, the government had opened the Andaman and Nicobar islands as a holiday destination to all level of government employees, allowing them to utilise their leave travel allowances to fly to the tropical paradise.

However, those hopping aboard the first available flight to visit the islands'' legendary beaches, forests, coral reefs and tribal cultures, once the domain of senior state employee on vacations have middle and junior level government employees.