The tourism town of Kumily is hit hard by the unexpected boat tragedy that took place, especially as the season has just started. Tourists are almost keeping away from Thekkady.
Kumily is the only town in the district which completely depends on tourism activities and the tragedy has affected all spheres of life. Experts point out that even if the boat services for tourists in the Thekkady Lake are resumed and strict safety measures are adopted, it will not be easy to restore the economy of the developing town as many tourists, especially first-time visitors, will choose alternative locations at least this season.
The entire town is almost absent of tourists now, especially foreigners. Hotels, home-stay facilities, shops selling handicraft items and spices, tourist taxis and travel agencies are among the many to be affected. “However, unlike other tourism destinations, Kumily's rhythm of life was entirely built on tourism with no other activity to lean on,” says Bhasha, who runs a spices outlet in the town. There are nearly 50 of such shops in Kumily entirely dependent on tourists. The big and medium-level hotels are almost empty and are facing the threat of a thin tourist season this year. “The tragedy has sent a wrong signal across the world and visitors from abroad yet to finalise their trip, are likely to reschedule it, leaving us a very hard season,” said the manager of a hotel on the Kumily-Thekkady route.
Though it is premature to judge the effect on the economy, the stake holders say that it has already affected their income as many have taken loans to run their businesses. A large number of people are also facing the threat of losing their jobs in case there is a cutting of expenses to counter the poor season.
The tragedy happened when Thekkady was gaining popularity as a major destination and a heavy rush was experienced during the holiday seasons last year with hotels booked to the full. Foreigners returned without getting tickets for the boat travel. Now the picture is the exact opposite and despair is seen large on the faces of people in all walks of life in Kumily.
The Forest Department's initiative to involve tribals in a large way in the tourism sector is also facing uncertain future. Treks are arranged with the help of tribal watchers and a large number of them are employed in other areas also.
Even when the tsunami was affected badly in the lake water tourism of the State, Kumily showed an upward trend in the arrival of tourists, according to records at the check point. The global economic slow down did not have much impact on the arrival of foreigners in Thekkady. “It was a steady growth for the town till the tragedy and for the first time, Kumily is experiencing uncertainty,” says T. Thomas, a former block member. “However, we hope it will only be a temporary phenomenon,” he adds.