India Power Blackout Has Surprisingly Little Effect on Tourism
India experienced a major blackout on July 31 and Aug. 1 that left almost 700 million people in northern India, roughly a tenth of the world’s population, without power. India’s aging grid, no doubt buckling under the weight of the country’s roaring economy, needs investment, but few want to invest in a system that loses an estimated 15 to 30 percent of its power to theft.
In most countries such a power grid failure would be a serious impediment to travel and tourism, but not so in India. India has developed in such a way that upper classes generate their own power, while the poor are accustomed to living without power and only the middle class, which at 350 million people is the world’s largest, takes it on the chin. At the same time, major hotels, airports and trains have their own back-up power systems in place to deal with localized outages.
“Indians are accustomed to blackouts,” said Pallavi Shah, president of New York-based Our Personal Guest, an India travel specialist. “It’s not like the kind of panic you get with a blackout here in New York City where the people really rely on the infrastructure. Back-up systems are in place everywhere in India. Hotels have their own generators and sightseeing is always a sunrise to sunset activity. The New York Times called it India’s ‘alternative energy economy.’ Anyway, the blackout happened in places where few tourists go. Only Rajasthan among popular destinations was affected, but their tourism is so sophisticated that they were completely prepared.”
Other tour operators to India say the country’s tourism infrastructure can be sustained without electric power, at least for a time. “The trains associated with tourism, like the Palace on Wheels and the Maharaja Express, run on diesel,” said Supinder Singh, president of New York-based Palace Tours. “They can get stuck behind other trains using the same tracks, but the tourism season doesn’t get going until September, so this time it was no problem. The airports have their own generators. When this blackout happened I called my father in India to see if he was okay. He didn’t even know the blackout was going on. Some of our clients called, but we assured them that back-ups were in place.”
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