Bitupon Gogoi, a safari driver in the Kaziranga National Park & Tiger Reserve, starts his day as early as 5 am in the hope of getting at least one safari booking around the Kohora range of the National ark. Until November 2019, this would never have been an issue.

Around 250 safari drivers, who depend on tourism at the world heritage site, have been struggling to make ends meet for the past two years. And they are not alone. Watch this special EM ground report from the Kaziranga National Park:

However, since December 2019, when Assam was first hit by the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and two months later by the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been receiving less than two bookings every 15 days, which fetch him Rs 2,000 monthly.

“Our income was good before CAA. We used to get at least one trip per day every month. When we got at least 1 trip a day, we earned Rs 30,000 per month,” said Bitupon.

Bitupon and around 250 safari drivers, who depend on tourism at the world heritage site, have been struggling to make ends meet for the past two years.

“Foreign tourism in Kaziranga plays a major role compared to domestic tourism. Its ratio is somewhere around more than 1:10. For domestic tourists, if we charge Rs 100, for foreign tourists, the revenue becomes somewhere around Rs 1,900. And they used to be here for 2-3 days. And in case of domestic tourists, they will come in the morning, do a jeep safari and leave in the evening. In such a model, mostly for the hoteliers, there is not much revenue,” said P Sivakumar, Director, Kaziranga National Park & Tiger Reserve.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, changing travel restrictions compelled travellers to book their holidays closer to home. The scenario was no different in the Kaziranga National Park.

The number of tourists at the Park was 3.33 per cent higher during the 2020-2021 season as compared to the 2018-2019 season. However, the last season’s revenue was 26.8 per cent less than the 2018-2019 season. This is because 99.7 per cent of the total visitors were domestic tourists last year.



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