Now a days, all popular zones of Kanha & Bandhavgarh are out of reach on almost all weekends, holiday periods. Since year 2016, trend for safari booking has been changed and it was observed that travel agents hoteliers are doing safari booking in advance in order to ensure it for their customer and to maintain their business. Situation is such that hoteliers have developed a belief that if they will have tickets in advance, they will have business else they have nothing to offer to their customer. Safari tickets booking is now a very competitive task which can be noted while we go for safari tickets booking for any date. Even though you know the date & time for opening of safari tickets for any particular date but still normal visitors is failing to book it, irrespective of how fast you enter date, how quickly you make the payment. Even a booking expert is not in a position to use guarantee word for any peak season date. For peak season dates like Diwali dates, 25th Dec, 31Dec, tickets of popular zones gets sold out in first 90 seconds. In normal course of time, we take even longer time to fill up form, submit it, wait for OTP and make online payment. Without using loopholes of booking system and tricks, it is not possible to book tickets so fast.
Who are people, taking away safari tickets?
If we talk about those persons who are taking away safari tickets in such ruthless way and making normal visitor deprive of safari opportunities, then we will get expected answer i.e. they are those persons who are making money through blocking tickets i.e. hoteliers & some local travel agents. Now question will arise that why and how they make money by over-blocking safari tickets ? Here we will get the answer that it is the facility of “ADD-ON”, offered by Forest Department, is exploited in full-extent to cheat the system and make money. If we study the booking system and rules carefully, we will find loop holes in many stages which are explored and mis-used by hoteliers & local ticketing agents. Let us see how they do it?
- Quick Ticket Booking: It is the very first stage of ticket blocking in which they use 2 visitor names, mostly their employees & local friends who will remain present during safari drives. They inducts their 5-10 person on system, waiting for 11:00 AM, time of opening of safari tickets. Once ticket opening for a date gets opened, they quickly fill-up form, without worrying for any typing mistake and book the tickets. One computer operator will book one ticket only so that things will be done faster than normal visitor.
- ADD-ON System: As per forest department rule, we can add at least 4 person name on already booked ticket. This is done by a process called Add-on system in which forest department will get fee of 1 full-ticket as fee for adding new names. For example if agent will book its ticket at 1500 INR. then for add-on, he is need to pay 1500 INR. more i.e. total 3000 INR. on that ticket. Further he is required to pay separately for guide fee & safari vehicle fee. In an all its total cost becomes approx. 6000 INR., when add-on facility is availed. Now these tickets were sold in market on Per Person basis like 2000 INR. Per Person through which they earns around 12000 INR. against investment of 6000 INR. Apart from this, offering of safari tickets will ensure room-booking in their resort/lodge. Luxury resorts can easily avail such investment and risk as benefits is much more than investment.
- Single Seat Ticket: Here also, loop hole is much big. Here fake bookings were done in name of minors due to which investment remains low and cancellation charge will also remain low. Their is no waiting system in Single seat system which means, if we do any seat cancellation, it will not be allotted to Waiting person and on doing cancellation at odd time we can immediately book it again in name of new person.
- Cheating Waiting System: Black markettier use to block the ticket in fake names and retain it till last 5-days. When money is refunded to Waiting ticket holder, they do cancellation and book again in new names. This is the reason that Waiting person don’t get ticket.
- Ticket Counter Person Involvement: As hoteliers & local agents are familiar with Forest Department employees so they take undue advantage from such relations. Many time they do cancellation at counter and immediately do ticket booking in name of their actual customer. No normal tourist can catch this type of cheating and thus bookings are managed.
Now after reading this all, we can’t blame any one section like only hotelier, only local agent, only travel agent. It is not that all hotels or all agents are part of such malpractice but each section has some contribution. Data release by ticket booking website, proves that mis-use of system is going on. Let us check the data of add-ons on each national park.
Overall add-on done in Tourism Year 2017-18
- Kanha Tiger Reserve = 1779
- Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve = 2416
- Panna Tiger Reserve = 32
- Pench Tiger Reserve = 442
- Satpura Tiger Reserve = 29
- Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve = 0
This shows that Bandhavgarh & Kanha tiger reserves are on top and problem is also severe in these two tiger reserves. Unusually add-ons in these two tiger reserves is very high. Large number of normal tourists is not aware of Add-on system so this can’t be expected from their side. Thus it is done by those who are well aware of ticketing system i.e hoteliers & local ticketing agents.
Step that put Fuel on fire
Earlier their was provision of progressive costing on add-on system in which each add-on member have to pay full-ticket fee. For example if we buy a ticket @ 1500 INR with two names, then for rest of the 4 seats, cost will be 1500 x 4=6000, plus gypsy fee & guide fee. This increases the cost so high that it was difficult for black-marketiers to sell them in open market but this rule was changed and relaxation was given as that 4 newly added person will pay 1500 only. This mistake from department side has given scope for hoteliers & ticketing agents to do more Add-ons by blocking more & more tickets. If we study the trend then we will find that after this relaxation, problem increased rapidly.
It will be not wise that shift full blame on hotel sector as they have logic that made huge investment, offering services in adverse conditions and promoting the destination, causing business in this sector. Booking tickets in name of employee or friends is also not illegal. Similarly add-on is also done in laid frame-work so they have the logic that we are following legal process and paying all due fee so it is not illegal. Same response will be from local ticketing agent. They have logic that they are small fishes are could not be blamed and nothing is illegal as everything is done on legal framework. Both the sections will say that smartly using the laid facilities so not responsible for any legal action. If we will talk to Forest department, they will say that they are laying rules in good faith to make safaris affordable and accessible to each section of society. Add-on system allows more people to enjoy safari in limited framework. Their is always scope for mis-use of rules so cheating can be reduced but can’t be fully-stopped. Those who are smart, they will do research & find the loop-hole and cheat the system.
Although fast booking of safari tickets is not illegal but it is immoral. Those who are cheating the booking system were giving chance to innocent visitors but they are not those visitors who taken decision in more advance and tried for safari tickets booking when they get released in market and failed due to smart moves by black-marketiers. Currently prevailing trend violates the natural justice of “first come first serve” rule. If I will come first for ticket then as per natural justice, I should be given ticket first, rather than those who came late but due to money-power, purchase it from black-marketiers. This causes disappointment and frustration among normal tourists. Although we can’t stop it fully but their is definitely scope for improvement in system to make ticket booking more fair procedure, like:
- Increase quota of Single Seats booking and cease the add-on system. Increase in quota will full fill the drawbacks created due to absence of add-on system.
- Charge higher fee against tickets cancellation, since beginning.
- Do not allow cancelled ticket to come back online and pass it to ticket counter for walk-in customer. Here role of person sitting on ticket counter should be scanned properly.
- Development & promotion of other nearby tiger reserves like Panna national park, Sanjay Dubri tiger reserve. It is best way to share the tourism pressure on Kanha & Bandhavgarh. Other options are available and they are deserving also but due to poor promotion, tourists still overlooking them.