July 31, 2021: Punjab will be celebrating the first Independence Day of a free country. It is fitting that the nation is celebrating a glorious milestone like this one so early in the game. Tourists from all across India and neighboring regions and countries are pouring in droves to celebrate this momentous event.
The tourism and travel industry in Punjab is booming with many new destinations being added to the list. Travel agents in Punjab have begun to network aggressively with other agencies and booked agents in order to meet the demand from clients who are booking flights and hotels in advance. Punjab has become a hub for both domestic and international tourists. Many a times tourists in Punjab have found themselves charged more than what they should be for their journey and accommodation bookings.
There are so many places in Punjab, that are world-class and await discovery. Hotels in Chandigarh, resorts in Jodhpur, palaces in Bikaner, temples in Daryaganj and countless other places of interest in and around Punjab are some of the prime tourist draws. However, not everyone is scrupulous about booking travel tickets and travel accommodation. Many people working in the field of tourism in Punjab are very careful in whom they deal.
The state of Punjab has been plagued by a severe shortage of accommodation in the last few years and the culprit is mostly unscrupulous travel agents. Tourism has played a major role in the economic progress and development of Punjab. The capital city of Chandigarh has also gained a lot of popularity as a tourist destination in the country. Tourism development in the state has been high on the priority list for the present government. With this in mind, the Punjab government has cracked down on illegal construction of hotels, guest houses and other forms of accommodation. The enforcement policy is quite strict and the number of cases against these two forms of non-permanent fixtures is now less than that against hotels.
The first case that we will look into pertains to the case of eleven women who were abused inside a hotel in Chandigarh. These women were housed in an accommodation facility for domestic workers in Chandigarh that was later turned into a private bath. An Indian substandard worker would be paid almost minimum wage; this included the lodging and food allowance. There was no separate housekeeping staff to ensure the rooms were cleaned, meals were served on time and the rooms free of any smells. All of these standards are violated and the case was registered with the authorities when the domestic worker complained. The authorities conducted its own investigation and found that three out of the eleven women had been abused.
Another case relates to the case of a woman who was brutally murdered by her husband. The case was heard in the court of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence order of India’s lower courts. The judge found the husband responsible for the death and ordered him to serve the entire sentence. We can only hope that the Indian authorities will be more stringent when it comes to dealing with foreign travel agents operating without licenses in jalandhar and hilly areas.
The third case refers to the booking system being used by an out of control booking agent in Chandigarh. This agent was found fixing prices according to the number of guests that he was meant to take care of for a wedding in a local hotel. When confronted with this evidence, the authorities decided to ban all booking systems that use an unregulated pricing system. If such a system is found to be operating, no travel agents are allowed to fix prices. This means that customers will be able to get the best deals available.
This is only the beginning of a series of reforms that the authorities have planned to bring about in the field of travel agents in Punjab. While it is true that most agents are now firmly embedded into the system of local hotels and resorts, they will still need to find ways to operate without any kind of regulation. For the time being, however, the ban on booking through agents continues. The Punjab government welcomes any initiative taken by other governments to regulate the agents in the state.