Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Villagers play host to tourists in lion land

Villagers play host to tourists in lion land

Keeping the tradition of hospitality alive in modern times, villagers around the famous Asiatic Lion Sanctuary in Gir, recently hosted the tourists who flocked there during the holidays starting Diwali.

The tourist influx into the Gir National Park and Sanctuary was so much that local hotels and guest houses all were fully booked, leaving many visitors stranded.

The villagers of the area came to the rescue of the tourists due to insufficient facilities in the Gir National Park and Sanctuary.

The day after Diwali being the Gujarati New Year and the next day being Bhai Dooj followed by Saturday, Sunday and Sardar Patel's birthday on Monday has given people nearly a week-long holiday.

Those who could not afford the expensive locations in Kerala or Andamans or foreign sites generally settled for nearby destinations like Gir which can be clubbed with a visit to the ancient Somnath Temple. Thus the tourist inflow into Gir was so much this time that the villagers had to step in to accommodate the extra rush of people, Mango Orchard owner Natwarsinh told The Pioneer from Talala in Gir region.

The villagers around Sasan, the headquarters of the Gir sanctuary area, quickly made arrangements for the tourists and also cooked for them at nominal charges, added Natwarsinh. The room rents charged ranged from `750 to `1,000, at par with the average low cost hotels.

Sensing the high inflow of tourists, the regular hotels made a fast buck by hiking their tariffs, said a local social worker Allahrakha Khan. One prominent hotel had hiked its rate from `3,000 to `30,000 per night and still visitors not getting the rooms, he added.

Such a rise in the popularity of Gir as a tourist destination can be attributed to superstar Amitabh Bachchan endorsing it in the "Khushboo Gujarat Ki" advertisement series, said Allahrakha.

President Pratibha Patil's visit to Gir few months' back and the media reports about the rise in the Asiatic lion population to a record 411 have also contributed to increased people's interest, he surmised. But hotel rooms have not increased proportionate to the rise in tourist inflow resulting in such a situation, lamented the social worker.

Some low budget tourists had spent the night at bus stations in places like Veraval, Somnath, Una and Junagadh, only to return home by the next available service at day-break, said Natwarsinh.

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