Udupi, Dec 2, 2016: Udupi former DC Dr R Vishal had enthusiastically introduced "Heli Tourism" months ago, now it seems to have gone into thin air, no ‘genuine reason’, after Dcs transfer. The launch of helicopter tourism facility at Adi Udupi in February offered a spectacular and panoramic landscape view to the customer at reasonable price.The Delhi-based chartered service provider Chipsan Aviation was hired by the district administration to provide heli tourism services and would receive requests every week or 10 days for a helicopter landing.
Initially, the service was available for two weeks and was to be extended if it became a success. The jolly ride around Udupi, Manipal and Malpe would cost Rs 3,000 per head. Students were given concession and the service was available at Rs 400 per head.
Tourists who wished to travel from Mangaluru to Udupi, from Udupi to Kollur or other places had to inform the Chipsan Aviation 24 hours in advance. Tourists and VVIPs who wanted to visit Udupi or Kollur could hop into the chopper in Mangaluru and reach the pilgrimage centres.
The facility was also available for tourists to Murudeshwar and Gokarna. The helicopter could carry a maximum of six passengers apart from the pilot. As Manipal is a major healthcare centre, a plan to promote health tourism was made part of the project.
Sudesh Shetty, the heli tourism package coordinator, told media that expensive maintenance and lack of support from the district administration have resulted in temporary suspension of the programme. Plans have been chalked out to use the chopper for at least 10 days in December, solely concentrating on mega tour covering the mammoth Western Ghat, unlike earlier packages which included beach tour. He added that concrete plans are expected to be submitted in another year and hoped heli tourism would be a reality then.
Maintenance is not feasible in areas like Udupi, said Shetty. Adding to existing woes, helipad facility is poor. The one at Adi Udupi is in the possession of NCC, which is mostly reluctant to let anybody use the grounds. There is one helipad and other facilities in Kundapur at Uva Meridian. It is also difficult to find a permanent base for helipad following the stringent rules put forth by Aviation Ministry.
There is no proper arrangements for the halt of the chopper and the stay of the crew members. Shetty added that there is lack of support from the public, which has resulted in the venture being not profitable. If there is a permanent base, provisions like online booking facilities can be offered. Besides religious tourism and health tourism can also be promoted. Above everything else, district administration should support the venture, he said.