Udhagamandalam: Will 2007 usher in a change in the manner that fairs and festivals related to tourism are organized in this holiday destination?

This question has started doing the rounds in the Blue Mountains following the move of District Collector Santosh K.Misra to involve representatives of various sections.

On fairs and festivals, the views of the people here have always been divergent. A view shared by many, particularly green activists, is that such events are of little significance vis-à-vis tourism.

Their contention is that tourists come to the Nilgiris mainly to enjoy its salubrious weather, scenic beauty and greenery. They are not interested in dance, drama and music programmes. However many others, including hoteliers and travel agents, opine that fairs and festivals have become an integral part of tourism promotion efforts and visitors look forward to them.

The Tea and Tourism festival scheduled on February 3 and 4 will lift the curtain on the 2007 Fairs and Festivals. Since the economy and well being of the Nilgiris depended on its tea gardens and tourism, it had been introduced 15 years ago amidst much fanfare.

However, small tea growers and local traders feel the annual festival is yet to make an impact. In this context, much is expected from this year's Tea and Tourism festival.

The Secretary, Nilgiri Hotels and Restaurants Association (NHRA) N.Chandrashekar, said that hitherto it had been organised more or less as a mandatory activity.

Hence it has neither boosted the sale of tea nor helped in increasing the inflow of tourists. He hoped that the efforts of the district administration to involve all stakeholders in the organization of this year's festival would be a trendsetter.

Health benefits

Focus should be on projecting the existing and potential health benefits of tea and the unique aspects of the Blue Mountains, which are yet to be exploited for tourism.

The President, The Nilgiri Small Tea Growers Association, T.Rangaiah, said that it was time such festivals served their purpose. He felt that the authorities should consider organizing the festival during summer or an appropriate part of the year when the flow of tourists would be heavy.

Though the annual flower festival at the Government Botanical Garden here has for long been considered the piece de resistance of the summer tourist season, the manner in which it was being conducted has become monotonous.

The need of the hour is novelty and value addition, said many of the senior citizens of the hill station. The government and the corporate sector should team up to stage programmes that would please different sections of tourists.

While events like jamboree, equestrian show and autumn festival should be revived; winter should be promoted as the ideal time to visit the Nilgiris.