SpiceJet reinstated its flight from Delhi and Ahmedabad to Jaisalmer after an unprecedented airline-citizen partnership. Manvendra Singh Shekhawat, MD, Suryagarh and Founder, I Love Jaisalmer, who was instrumental in getting the travel community together, shares the success story.
The travel community in India’s Golden City – Jaisalmer– came together early this year to give a bank guarantee to fill the losses that SpiceJet was suffering on the Delhi-Jaisalmer, Ahmedabad-Jaisalmer routes. The suspended routes were thus reinstated and flights began operating on February 12. Talking about the experience, Manvendra Singh Shekhawat says, “We were very confident that there cannot be a loss operating on this sector given Jaisalmer’s brand value. SpiceJet operated over 82 per cent load on the sector and flights were profitable.” Presently, while the Delhi flight is not part of the summer schedule, the Ahmedabad route continues to be in operation.
Shekhawat sees such an initiative as a positive change. “This shows how each stakeholder in the tourism community was able to pool intent and resources. This has given a whole new dimension and exposed people to the possibility that when everyone gets together, many wonderful things happen and we can take on large-scale challenges that are posed to the tourism industry. If we all join hands, we can do many wonderful things. There is reassurance that the success of this campaign will pave the way for many other things in the future,” he hopes.
He adds that the entire tourism fraternity also got together on one platform, under the District Collector, and pulled off the Jaisalmer Desert Festival. “It was perhaps the most visited desert Afestival with all COVID norms in place. Within 15 days, they sought permissions from the government. They have planned a lot more things in the coming time, after the COVID situation becomes better. We will again join hands with the entire tourism fraternity and do some large-scale projects for the benefit of tourism in Jaisalmer,” he claims. The idea would be to again convince airlines that the local community in Jaisalmer is working proactively to promote the destination and making it more tourist-friendly. “If tourists come in and demand grows, airlines would have more incentive to connect Jaisalmer to the rest of the country. The community will come together and catalyse this,” he adds. Shekhawat says that they are looking at expandingthe Golden City’s connectivity to other markets beyond Delhi and Mumbai, like Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.
The ‘I Love Jaisalmer’ Founder also believes that there exists only a ‘perceived’ notion of loss. “In this initiative, there was no loss to anyone. Everyone who had contributed money for the initiative got their money back and all the tourists who had visited Jaisalmer must have spent on food, services and hotels. All of that was just additional revenue for the city, which would not have been there, or at least the major part of it would not have been there, if there were no flights. We are, in fact, now proposing that the Government of Rajasthan underwrite some of the funds that have been allocated for tourism for such initiatives, where airlines have a guarantee that there is going to be business, or at least their loss is covered to some extent. Then they will continue and connect the destination to the rest of the country, which will indeed have a cascading effect on the local economy. The government is our 18 per cent partner in everything, so it’s going to benefit them as well,” he explains.
Initiatives for 2021
Shekhawat says they were really hopeful of launching Jaisalmer 99—the summer programme at Jaisalmer which is really making the destination open and accessible at night to all tourists, so that they can beat the heat and plan interesting activities at a city level that would have kept people engaged through the summer. “Also, because it’s our shoulder period, extra revenue doesn’t hurt. However, all these plans have slightly been postponed because of cities going under lockdown. We are going to review the situation in a month and plan our next steps. However, I can assure you that in the next year, there are going to be a lot of community-led, city-centric interesting experiences that Jaisalmer is going to roll out,” he concludes.