| A grocery shop in Rajgir. Picture by Roshan Kumar |
Nalanda University has infused hopes of an economic boost among residents of the tourism town, still in the inertia of missing Nitish Kumar as chief minister.
The hospitality industry is hopeful more guests will turn up after the inauguration of the new university.
The eateries are optimistic they will cater to more customers, while owners of departmental stores are confident about an upsurge in business once the international seat of learning becomes completely operational. Some are looking at it as a source of employment.
The hospitality sector, which sees a lull in business during the March-September off-season, is expecting better days ahead with the onset of classes in the university from September 1. Sanjay Singh, the president of Rajgir Hotel Association, said: “We expect more guests in this tourism town once the university starts functioning. Parents of the students would put up in hotels whenever they come to visit their wards. That way, there will be an upswing in business in the hospitality sector in the near future.”
Rajesh Ranjan, manager of The Rajgir Residency, echoed Singh. “Right now, we completely bank on foreigners for business. Very few Indian tourists check in to our hotel because our tariff is slightly on the higher side. I am sure the international university will bring in more guests.”
Average occupancy rate at Rajgir’s premium hotels is 30-35 per cent. At budget hotels, the figures vary from 45 to 50 per cent.
Ranjan said: “Students from across the globe would come to study at Nalanda University. Naturally, our occupancy rate will go up in the days to come.”
Officials at Indo Hokke, another premium hotel in Rajgir, hold similar views. Pappu Yadav, responsible for managing the hotel’s front office, said: “During the peak season from October to February, the hotel remains packed with guests from abroad. The remaining seven months of the year are dull days for us. But things have started changing now with the international university about to take-off.”
The hotel played host to several visitors, here in connection with the university, in August.
“We have started getting business because of the varsity,” said Yadav, adding that it would have been a win-win situation for Rajgir had Nitish remained chief minister.
Citing the example of Rajgir International Convention Centre, Yadav said: “Rajgir witnessed a lot of development work during Nitish’s tenure. But after he relinquished the post of chief minister, the pace of progress has slowed down. He was a patron of the upcoming international university. Hope his absence does not hit its development.”
With Nitish no more chief minister, Rajgir residents seem to be now banking on the university for an economic boost. Ashok Kumar, the proprietor of a departmental store at the Rajgir bus stand square, barely 2.5km from the upcoming Nalanda University campus, said: “Nitish had tried to promote Rajgir as a tourism destination. But it is history now. We are now banking on the university to boost our business. I’m sure its rippling effect will push up my sales.”
While the business fraternity is expecting dividends from the university, some residents are looking forward to jobs — big or small. Anjana Sharma, dean, academics affair, Nalanda University, said: “There were at least 50 applicants from Rajgir for two posts of cooks.” The university recently posted openings on its website. Candidates were invited for walk-ins for several posts, including accounts assistant, administrative officer and cooks.