As the plains sweat in summer heat, people flock to the hills to chill out. And the Queen of the hills – Ooty – is all dressed up for the occasion.
It is these tourists who have contributed to the economic well being of the Nilgiris apart from the numerous tea estates, and factories.
Since the early 1980s, tourism has made this hill station one of the leading vacation destinations in the country.
From being a summer destination, Ooty has grown to an year-round tourist attraction, especially in the last two years.
The number of people who rush to this hill station for a weekend cosiness is on the rise.
This year’s tourism season began with the extended Easter weekend. It will go on till the onset of the South-West Monsoon.
The district authorities, those in the hospitality and travel sectors and those directly or indirectly depend on tourism for a livelihood, and people in general have great expectations about tourist seasons.
District Collector Archana Patnaik says the focus should be on exposing lesser known tourist destinations to tourists. Because many of them just hang around the usual spots as they are unaware of other places. The Tourism Department has drawn up a plan of action.
Tourist Officer S. Dorairaj says some of the tourists have already spotted Manjoor, Geddhai, and Gudalur.
But Peermukku, Avalanchi, Cairn Hill, 9th mile, and Kamaraj Sagar, are yet to become popular.
Some of the tea estates have drawn up plans to attract tourists and the response is good. Tourists are now going to far flung areas like Hiriyaseegai, near Kinnakorai.
He says in 2012 23 lakh tourists visited Ooty. April and May saw 10 lakh crisscrossing the district. The 2013 Summer Festival will begin on May 4.
Nilgiri Moutain Railway Station Superintendent B. Padmanabhan says that seats on the train between Coonoor and Mettupalayam are fully booked till June 6.
Arrangements for the racing season beginning next week at the high altitude race course here are in full swing. Nilgiri Hotels and Restaurants Association secretary N. Chandrashekar says problems relating to water supply has to be sorted out immediately. Local residents say officials should clean up the Ooty Lake.A major headache is the parking problem faced by the town. The Ooty-Mettupalayam National Highway continues to be in an appalling condition. Even a minor accident along this route will hold up the traffic for long hours. Another major area where the district administration has to concentrate is preventing beggars from pestering tourists. There is considerable increase in the number of elephants, Indian gaurs, sambars, spotted deer, common langurs, and vultures in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, says its Deputy Director A. Ameer Haja. The dry conditions prevailing in the district has affected the animals but efforts are on to provide water in about 20 artificial troughs inside the reserve forests.
The elephant safari, now put on hold, is likely to resume next week, he says adding that van safari is continuing. There is sufficient water in Methala pond.