Geography: Development of Infrastructure and Growth of Tourism: Rail Transport, Place of Hotels in Tourism Infrastructure, Tour Operation and Management

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Rail Transport

  • Organised tourist travel started on railways since the close of 2nd World War. Big rail network of our country could operate cheaply and quickly for travellers of those days. It provided only the low budget comforts, while rail routes connected major cities within 200 to 500 km distances, the very long-distance subcontinental service extended over several hundred kilometres.

  • The most notable trunk routes connecting Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and back to Mumbai form the ‘golden quadrilateral’. The diagonal routes within the quadrilateral connect Mumbai and Kolkata on one hand and Delhi and Chennai on the other.

Railway Networks In Inida

Image of Railway Networks in Inida

  • A great north-south offshoot rail route has now reached Jammu-Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir (finally to be extended to Baramula via Srinagar) state and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu at the end of country’s mainland. In the easterly direction, it terminates far at the station of Murkongselek via north-east frontier railway in Arunachal Pradesh.

  • Almost all major rail routes have been electrified to ensure clean and quick travel. Metro rails are fast coming up in India’s busy metropolises as another tourist attraction. It is rightly said that travelling India by train offer the sights, sounds, and smells of stations as well as a variety of people, over a route length of more than 60,000 km.

  • There are five little mountain trains connecting the most scenic hill resorts of Shimla, Ooty (Udhagamandalam), Matheran in Maharashtra, and Darjeeling to the north of Kolkata, for the pleasure-loving tourists. Appropriately called ‘toy trains’ they offer varying natural scenery with rise in altitude in the mountain. The tracks criss-cross a number of bridges, over hundred tunnels U turns and aqueducts on their way. Some steam engines are still being used to attract tourist to their historic memory. Himalayan Queen is the romantic name given to an important train plying along this line.

  • Another example of a train pulled by the oldest steam locomotive is the one which runs between Delhi cantonment and Alwar in Rajasthan. On its 138 km journey, this train called ‘fairy queen’ passes through Sariska Tiger Sanctuary. It caters mostly to the ever-growing demands of tourists.

  • A narrow-gauge train runs not up the mountain as such but through hills and dales from Pathankot to Jogindernagar in Himachal Pradesh passing through lush green tea garden and paddy field of Kangra valley.

  • Konkan coastal railway is a newly completed wonder of engineering connecting Mumbai to Mangalore (along Karnataka-Kerala border) via Goa. This 760 km long scenic track has 10% of its track under tunnels or bridges.

  • A right royal train known as ‘Palace on Wheel’ provides an all-inclusive package tour of seven days covering important tourist places of Rajasthan besides Agra and Delhi. Its luxury coaches have all comforts and hospitality services once enjoyed by Maharajas of native states of the region in their palaces. Tourists, who want to combine sight-seeing of the region with eating and travelling in this kind of clean and luxurious palace, can look forward for the best attention in this train true to its name.

  • A facility known as Indrail Pass exists for tourists to choose a circuit route for a wide variety of attractions without any en-route travel restrictions within a valid period ranging from 7 days to 90 days. The choice of the route is completely left with the users. For domestic tourists, a circular rail ticket is arranged reducing the difficulty of getting connections on their way. Travel cars are arranged for moving from point to point as per the schedule fixed by the travellers themselves.

  • Although 25% of berths are reserved for foreign travellers, the complaints still post in that reservation are not confirmed till the eleventh hour. It is certainly initiating for these tourists and may act as a hindrance for promotion of tourism. But now days if the job is assigned to a reliable tour operator, reservations stay assured. Of course, our rail catering services need to be further improved to bring them on international standards.

Place of Hotels in Tourism Infrastructure

  • The need for accommodation in different classes of hotels suiting the varying requirements of tourists is no less an important part of tourism infrastructure. Accommodation facilities in the host country have become such an important part of tourist industry that it is now known as hotel industry by itself. Best possible room and restaurant services are in great demand for allure the tourists. Chair stores supplying fast food for locally prized items of art and craft work also exist either within hotel complexes or in collaboration with outside selling outlets. Such hotels earn 50% of foreign exchange reaching us from international tourists during their stay in India.

  • A great shortage of accommodation is still being experienced in the tourist centres all over the country because of a constant increase in the traffic of all categories of tourists. The hotel rooms available in our country are about 98000, against 36 lakh and 20.5 lakh in Indonesia. Seeing the rate of growth of tourism and the number of rooms under construction within the existing hotel space or in a few new hotels, our requirements for exceed the estimated availability to over the year. The change of land use rules for construction of more hotels and going in for special allotment of land for construction of motels are proposed as two immediate steps.

  • Land is becoming costlier more rapidly in metro cities and the rate of annual investment required to meet the target has also been rising at a fast pace. The construction of hotels at wayside places close to such cities and at sites within easy connectivity from there has taken place during the last few years. The charge of land use rules and special allotment of land would further encourage such a construction activity.

  • Other than the three to five-star hotels, the hotels are further graded into different categories on the basis of comforts provided. These are named as motels, tourist bungalows, and tents or lodges for seasonal, shorter or longer stays. Lodging arrangements are also made in guest houses or in people’s homes as paying guests. The sites for lodges are chosen carefully in forests, now spring grounds, close to camping grounds for putting up tents or water bodies for floating houseboats. All such sites are considered as tourist friendly in tourist resorts. Many centres of tourist interest have small hotels with less luxuries inside but provide for a great number of recreations and sports outside in their vicinity. These are the examples of closer relationship between organisation of suitable accommodation and various tourist activities possible for a particular duration at a tourist place.

  • Besides the usual provision of high-level facilities and comforts, the big international hotels have large conference halls, communication linkage with internet facilities, cooking, and recreational environment, and even health clubs. They have shopping marts and trading outlets. Rather there are hotels within a larger complex of hotels for exclusive use of their business inmates from rich countries like the USA or Japan. Yet they suit such tourists more because their tariff rate is lower as compared to the rates in New York, Paris, London or Tokyo in hotels of similar nature. At the other end, there are hotels located close to major airports offering short term accommodation and facilities to outgoing and incoming tourists.

  • Motel is a kind of hotel meant to serve especially the motor car tourists. We find them on the peripheries of cities and along busy highways. The greater use of car travellers in recent decades has been responsible for growth in the number of motels and roadside kiosks providing readymade fast food. These are very common in the USA. The idea to open them along a highway is picking up swiftly in our country depending upon the number of passing vehicles and flow of tourist traffic. Motels are less expensive in proportion to the facilities they provide, for instance, they may provide cooking gas connections and facilities for self-cooking. The state of Haryana provides a good example of constructing a number of motels in the vicinity of Delhi, along the busy Grand Trunk National Highway to Panchkula in the north, close to its border with Himachal Pradesh. The state has cashed on the great numbers of travellers passing this very road to the tourist regions of Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir. Even though Haryana has fewer tourist attractions, a series of motels named after local birds tempt the tourists to rest outside before taking the next lap of journey.

  • Tourist youth hostels, or inns and holiday homes managed by different agencies at various locations improvise accommodation for wayside tourists of different budget levels.

Tour Operation and Management

The management of tourism needs a large number of trained supporting staff to look after its different aspects. They include trained tour guides, travel agents or tour operators, stewards, chefs, and a host of their assistants. Out of these, the tour guides and tour operators are the key personnel of management staff. They get associated with tourists’ sights from the pre-planning stage of travel to the time they pack up for their homes. Their continuous supply has to keep pace with the expansion of tourist industry for ensuring a prolonged and a comfortable stay of tourists. The running of a sensitive service industry like tourism mainly depends upon their skill to bring about a fruitful interaction with the tourists. If they are absent from the scene or fail in performing a rightful role, the tourist arrival gets reduced. And this industry is on the verge of collapse despite the big publicity drive to make it popular. Their work at tourist destinations stands on equal footing with that of the hotelier and professional hotel manager.

Tour Guides

  • In the long run, a tour guide induces the visitors to the attractions of a tourist place or a tourist area and conducts them around the actual tourist spots. At the lowest local level, tour guidance is the basic unit for promotion of the whole programme of tourism.

  • An effective tour guide needs to be adequately aware of the geography of the area, background of the localities of tourist interest, past history including legends about temples, shrines, monuments ruins of old sites and forts on the list of sight-seeing. A good tour guide is expected to talk about the relevant local traditions, culture, folk lore, performing arts, festivals, and fairs for making the narration into an appealing story for the tourists. The facts about the tourist sight must be told clearly in the introduction. He or she will better be speaking to the tourists in their language or the language they understand. An experienced guide is capable to know the attitude of tourists just on enquiring about the country from where they came.

  • This knowledge makes his or her responses well taken and satisfies their queries. The skill of the guide lies in throwing in interesting anecdotes about local events and in highlighting the memorable roles played by persons associated with tourist sights. The first-time tour can be a starting point of next visits if the tour guide succeeds in creating a lasting interest among the tourists by his performance. By a wrongful doing of any kind, a single tour guide brings bad name not only to him alone but to a whole group of such functionaries.

  • Here it will be proper to refer to the example of the local tribal acting as guides for showing round the beautiful limestone caves and their cascading waterfalls, deep within, in Vishakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh. Till the year 2001, they used to earn about Rs.7000/- a month as their share for taking tourists into the caves, using kerosene lamps or torches along the way. In the year 2002, the government got the floor of caves cemented, light up the interior, and fixed up a lumpsum monthly salary of Rs. 3000/- to tribal guides, after dispensing with most of the services they rendered earlier. The government started earning large amount of money at the cost of drop in the income of the locals. Such an alienation of local persons depending upon guidance services spells disappointment for this job.

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