D. Radhakrishnan

Udhagamandalam: With the World Tourism Day celebrations round the corner the question doing the rounds here is “is tourism in the Queen of Hill Stations heading in the right direction?”.

The consensus both in official circles and among those engaged in tourism-related activities is that it is not.

Many from both the sides who spoke to The Hindu opined that if efforts were not made post-haste at various levels to put tourism on the right track ere long, its reputation of being one of the most popular vacation destinations south of the Vindhyas would be irreversibly damaged.

Official sources said the inflow of tourists had been steadily rising over the past few days. While it was over 22 lakh, including about 32 to 38,000 foreigners, in 2006 and 2007 during last year it shot up to 23.62 lakh, including 33,000 foreigners. However, though the quantity is increasing, “there is no qualitative improvement,” they lamented.

At the same time there is no let-up in implementing schemes. The government is focusing on sustainable tourism development. This will inter alia help promote responsible tourism even among the irresponsible tourists. In keeping with this, people visiting tourist spots are being requested to “leave them as you see them”. The need of the hour is proper coordination among departments like tourism, horticulture and forest.

In order to drive home the message that the entire Nilgiris is a tourist attraction, there is a proposal under the Hill Area Development Programme (HADP) to expose roads like the Ooty-Kotagiri highway along which the scenery is breathtaking. At suitable places boards asking tourists to “stop, look and enjoy” will be erected. A tourist-friendly autorickshaw scheme will be implemented.

Long-time observers said the scope to promote different forms of tourism like eco, responsible, rural, adventure, wildlife, education tourism and adventure was tremendous. However, the promotion should be done in such a manner that all activities were properly regulated with adequate infrastructure. Only then would there be a qualitative improvement, the observers said. In turn, the economy of the district would benefit.

Mere arrival of bus loads of day tourists carrying food packets will not ensure the economic well-being of this hill station.

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