“An ill-advised move when revenue is leapfrogging”
The Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) has proposed to privatise tourism facilities at Pichavaram, a scenic tourist spot renowned for the mangrove forests, near here.
However, the Killai Town Panchayat, under whose jurisdiction Pichavaram falls, has opposed the proposal. Chairman of the Town Panchayat K. Ravichandran told The Hindu that it was an ill-advised move when the revenue from the tourism centre was leapfrogging.
Mr. Ravichandran said after the tourism promotion efforts were taken up the year-on-year revenue generation had gone up significantly; it fetched revenue of Rs.42 lakh in 2007-2008, Rs.61 lakh in 2008-2009 and Rs.92 lakh in 2009-2010 and was bound to go up further in the coming years.
He said that for beautification and adding additional facilities such as a watchtower equipped with a telescope, he got Rs.50 lakh sanctioned under the Heritage Town Project.
Utilising the funds an auditorium was built, ornamental lightings were put up for illumination and a compound wall was erected.
The annual Dawn Festival (Vidiyal Vizha), a tourism promotion endeavour to attract tourists for witnessing sunrise through the thick mangrove forests from boats berthed in the backwaters, was being organised regularly, even though he had to meet the expenditure from his pockets.
When such was the case the TTDC had initiated measures to lease out the restaurant, boarding facility and bar there, sparing only boating. Mr. Ravichandran said that about 40 boatmen operating oar and motorised boats used to take food in the restaurant, but, after privatisation, they could not enjoy the benefit.
Moreover, leaving it to the market forces would jack up the prices of food, accommodation and cost of other services.
Mr. Ravichandran was wondering why the TTDC was fighting shy of running the hospitality section.
He pointed out that already it had failed to renew the lease for running the six cottages and two dormitories located across the waterways, deep in the mangrove forests. It had also not taken any steps to open its cottages at Chidambaram that remained closed for some time.
Mr. Ravichandran said that according to his information the TTDC had already leased out the Pichavaram facilities for 15 years for nominal considerations.
He appealed to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and Tourism Minister N. Suresh Rajan to review the proposal and allow the local body to run the facilities and improve the amenities.
Tourism Officer G. Ramamurthy said that owing to manpower shortage the restaurant could not be run properly. At times the employees were also deployed to man ticket counters for booking boat rides.
If given to private parties they might build more number of rooms and cottages to accommodate more number of tourists, he said.