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Jaipur, Oct 15 (IANS) Tourism in Rajasthan's famous Ranthambore Tiger Reserve has been hit hard by the Supreme Court's July verdict banning tourism in core areas of all Indian tiger reserves, industry experts said Monday.
Large numbers of domestic and foreign tourists have cancelled hotel, tiger safari and other bookings following the impasse over the Supreme Court's verdict, they added.
The Supreme Court had imposed an interim ban on tourism in core areas in July after states failed to comply with the central government's notification that tourism in these core areas be phased out.
"If there had not been a ban, the park would have been thrown open for tourists Oct 1. We were eagerly waiting for the Supreme Court's orders Oct 3. However, the next date of hearing has been extended to Oct 16. The ban continues till then," said Kamlesh Kumar, a tour operator.
Nature guides, hotel and showroom owners and vehicle owners are most affected by the ban. Ranthambore, a small town, some 150 km from state capital Jaipur, has about 60-70 hotels. Another 50 are in various stages of construction.
Karan Singh, a Jaipur-based travel agent told IANS, "The tourist season starts from October in Rajasthan. Not only domestic, but foreign tourists also start arriving here at this time. A majority of tourists visit Ranthambore to enjoy the tiger safari. However, the ban has led to heavy cancellation of bookings that has hit the tourism industry badly."
Narendra Goswami, a tour operator, said: "Ranthambore is the only reserve in the country where sighting of the tigers is easier. That is why tourists from across the world come here. The government has not put up the strong arguments in favour of tourism industry before the Supreme Court. It has led to the impasse."
The tour operators and hundreds of local residents are now looking forward to the court's judgment that is likely to come Oct 16.
Over 1.25 lakh tourists visited the park in 2010-11 and the revenue touched Rs.5.45 crore.
Ranthambhore was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973 and became a national park in 1980. The park is spread over an area of 900 square km when Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary area is included.
Besides an estimated 50 tigers, other wildlife found in the park includes leopard, nilgai, dhole, wild boar, sambar, hyena, sloth bear and chital. It is also home to a wide variety of trees, plants, birds and reptiles.