Tourism Sees Downfall As Tourist Busses For Sale In Kerala For Just Rupees 45 Per Kg

Kochi: Amid Covid Tourism industry has faced a huge downfall. ‘Tourist buses for sale – Rs 45 per kg’. The message by a Kochi-based operator to sell his buses for scrap, and shared by the Contract Carriage Operators Association Kerala (CCOA) – the leading association of tourist bus owners – on its Facebook page on Friday, has brought to the fore the near-death situation faced by the tourist bus industry in the state.

Royson Joseph, who is owner of Roy Tourism has put up a post on Facebook, has stated that he has sold his 10 out of 20 tourist buses into scrap, in last 12 to 18 months. As there were travel restrictions imposed, which have brought the industry to it’s knees. In the last four days of this week, only three tourist buses got a trip to Munnar. “Normally in February, the roads to Munnar witness heavy traffic. Now, the entire stretch is deserted,” he said.

At an anguish rate Royson has sold his 10 buses, just so that he can repay his loans. “I’m ready to sell my buses to anyone who pays me Rs 45 per kg. The situation is really bad; many tourist bus operators are on the verge of suicide,” he said.

The number of tourist buses in Kerala has fallen rapidly from 14,000 to less than 12,000 as money lenders took away some of them following default on payments by the operators stated CCOA president Binu John. “In the last two months alone, more than 1,000 buses were attached by the banks or money lenders,” he said. 

“The exact number will be known only after March, but we fear another 2,000-3000 tourist buses will be attached by banks and money lenders in the next one month or so,” said Binu. The ever-changing COVID travel rules in the state are being cited as the biggest problem.

“There are package tours for 8-10 days where we pick the tourists from the Kochi airport and drop them at Thiruvananthapuram airport after visits to major locations. But, then suddenly the government announces Sunday lockdown, and we are charged Rs 2,000 penalty by the police for operating on Sunday. This at a time when we pay a hefty amount as road, vehicle tax,” said Royson. 


The workers who were working with such tourist buses have lost their jobs.

A tourist bus operator pays about Rs 40,000 per quarter as road/vehicle tax. “In addition, there is the high cost of fuel and other expenses. We want the state government to at least withdraw the tax till COVID restrictions are completely withdrawn,” said S Prashanthan of Viswasree Services, another tourist bus operator. Job loss is another side effect.

At Royson Travels alone, 50 staff left the company amid the source of income of the agency witnessed a plunge. Binu said though the Union government has asked the banks to extend the period of moratorium after the first wave of the pandemic, most of the banks stopped the facility.

“That means the owners are forced to pay the installments of their EMIs within the stipulated deadline. The maximum number of trips that an owner gets in a month nowadays is up to three, generating a paltry average income of Rs 20,000. It is very hard to pay the wages of the staff, cover the operational cost and pay the EMI from these meagre amounts,” he said.

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