A section of tourism sector stakeholders said they had informally requested hotels and transporters to take old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from travellers in north Bengal who are unable to exchange currency notes in the middle of a holiday.
Some hotels and transporters have agreed to this, although hotels and transport companies are not among the designated places that the Centre has named — such as petrol pumps, banks — where people can give their old currency notes in exchange for new ones.
Tourism sector representatives said they had suggested this to hotels so that tourists were not inconvenienced. Also, hotels and transport operators often go to banks to deposit cash. So, whether the notes are new or old, the currency notes will have to be deposited.
On November 8, when the Centre made the decision to scrap notes of the two denominations and issued directives on withdrawal of money from bank counters and ATMs, hundreds of tourists in north Bengal and adjoining Sikkim were worried about making payments.
The problem had become more acute for tourists who travel to a destination first, then book hotels and cars, said a senior tour operator in Siliguri.
“Tourists who have bought travel packages earlier were less inconvenienced as they had made the major portion of their payments to us for accommodation, transport and other services,” the operator said.
Another tour operator said: “There was a feeling of insecurity and concern among tourists who are in a fix. We spoke to hoteliers and transporters and requested to them to accept these two currency notes as payments. We told them that eventually, every hotel deposits its collections in banks at regular intervals. The same is true for transporters. As there is no bar on making deposits, we believe there can’t be any problem if a hotelier accepts these notes from a tourist as payment. He can easily deposit the money and can save the tourist from the harassment.”
The arrangement, he said, is informal as the Union finance ministry’s directive has stipulated 11 places such as rail stations, airports, petrol pumps, milk booths and crematoriums that will take old notes from the midnight of November 11.
“We cannot force anybody in the industry to accept the notes but if this realistic approach is taken, it can help tourists. It is entirely an informal appeal and an informal arrangement,” a senior member of the travel industry said.
He mentioned a couple of families who had come to Darjeeling all the way from Gujarat and were carrying cash. “Only one family was carrying a card…. Unfortunately, the swapping machine at the hotel was not working yesterday, when they were scheduled to leave. They articulated their problem to the hotel manager who had heard about our appeal. He accepted the payment in cash. The families could leave without any harassment,” he said.
For tourists travelling through pre-bought packages but who have opted for additional services during a trip, such arrangements have been made by the operators. “We have come across a number of such clients who had hired services but find it to be a problem to make the payments,” Samrat Sanyal, a representative of a prominent travel service provider, said.
For these tourists, he said, the travel company concerned is asking the tourists to visit their offices in Siliguri as many of them have card machines installed and make the payments. Alternatively, they are requesting the tourists to make online payment, using their cellphones.
“If required, we are also sending our local representatives to their hotels with laptops so that they can access online banking and make the payment,” Sanyal said.
[Via: Telegraph, Pic: Cash spoiler to pristine view]
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