The travel trade and the hospitality industry are keeping their fingers crossed hoping that agitations in the wake of the Centre’s decision to implement the Kasturirangan committee report do not turn away tourists from Kerala.
Violent incidents in Idukki, Wayanad, Kozhikode, and Kannur, Monday’s hartal called the LDF, and the 48-hour “occupy the streets” blockade in Idukki have upset the itinerary of the tourists, both domestic and foreign.
Besides, the hartal and agitations have inconvenienced tour operators and taxi drivers as they cannot honour the travel itinerary of their clients who had made reservations months ago.
On Sunday, three women tourists from the U.S., visiting the State for the first time, had to check out from their hotel at Thekkady at 2 a.m. to reach Munnar before the hartal. As there were no rooms at the hill resort, they were forced to sleep in cars till the tour operator managed to get rooms.
“How can one expect the three to come again for a holiday? The name of the destination is spoiled and many are demanding compensation from us,” says P.K. Anish Kumar of the Association of Tourism and Trade-India (ATTOI).
Many tourists had to rush to another destination and safe places. They were forced to skip destinations and cruise in a houseboat.
“The tourist flow that picked up after Diwali has been hit. The peak season is bad compared to last year and the unrest will result in cancellations in the days ahead,” he adds.
With the peak season on, the stakeholders are worried as tourists are raising queries about safety of favourite spots in Wayanad, Thekkady and Munnar.
Marinne, a tour operator who has been bringing tourists from Sweden to the State for the past 12 years, told The Hindu over the phone from Kochi that the agitations were complicating the travel plans.
“The groups in Thekkady and Fort Kochi were hit. Some are ready to face it. Others were upset as they had to skip places on the itinerary. We are finding it hard to take care of the logistics of the groups,” she adds.
“We give a brief to the tourists and warn them that the State is not like Europe. If the hartal continues, the name of the destination will be affected,” she said.
Chairman, Confederation of Tourism Industry Kerala, E.M. Najeeb said the stakeholders were bringing in tourists from around the world with much difficulty.
“Hartals are giving a wrong message about Kerala and spoiling the reputation of the destination. If this continues, tour operators will be forced to give compensation for inconvenience and disruption caused to the tourists,” he said.
The demand of the tourism industry to exempt them from the hartals had not met with success. As part of mobilising support against the hartals, the ATTOI is organising an online poll.