An Oyo room for Rs 12,999 per night! The cheapest one-way non-stop flight ticket from Delhi for Rs 15,649! For anyone planning to visit the mega Kumbh Mela, which is being held in UP's Prayagraj, on March 4, the last day of the 50-day long grand fair, it's going to be anything but cheap. The festival began on January 14, and since then, the pilgrims are visiting in huge numbers. The authorities are expecting up to 15 crore people, including foreign travellers, to visit the North Indian city during this period.
"It's a typical demand-supply mismatch. Although the government has improved connectivity between Prayagraj and other cities, the amount of people thronging the city is phenomenal," says a travel consultant. Under the UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik) scheme, the ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) has recently linked Prayagraj with 13 more cities, including Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. This is in addition to the Delhi-Prayagraj flight, which has been operating for quite some time, and the railway network that connects the city with major cities.
The crowd in Kumbh comes in peaks and troughs. The ritual of taking dip in the holy waters of Ganga goes on throughout the festival; on some special days - like March 4 - the crowd swells six to eight times than the regular festival days. That's the time hotels find it difficult to meet the room demand. A large chunk of the room inventories are pre-booked, especially around the special days, but the operators keep some inventory for the last-minute bookings to benefit from the supply shortage. On the regular days, the rates are relatively lower, yet they are far higher than the rates in other comparable cities.
Despite being a tier-II city, Prayagraj has not yet figured on the expansion plans of major hospitality chains. The market is still dominated by local hotel operators (people with land bank and connected politically), and Gurgaon-based Oyo Rooms has managed to bring some hotel assets under its fold.According to industry lobby body CII, the Kumbh Mela is expected to generate revenues of Rs 1.2 lakh crore, and over six lakh jobs in various sectors. The largest employment generation is expected in the hospitality sector - 0.25 million - followed by airlines and airports at 0.15 million. The UP government has allocated a record Rs 4,200 crore for the festival. The tourism is a big multiplier for the GDP of a state; and a festival of this scale adds much more to the coffers of the state government than it would be spending. For the private sector, this 'religious' boost would certainly spur the state economy.