One week after e-pass system came in, Nilgiris sees slight dip in visitors, say business owners

Owners of hotels and small businesses say the e-pass system created some amount of confusion, and this has kept a proportion of tourists away

Updated - May 14, 2024 05:13 pm IST

Published - May 14, 2024 04:03 pm IST - UDHAGAMANDALAM

Tourists seen at the Government Botanical Garden in Udhagamandalam

Tourists seen at the Government Botanical Garden in Udhagamandalam | Photo Credit: SATHYAMOORTHY M

The mandatory e-pass system, introduced in the Nilgiris following a Madras High Court order, has led to a dip in the number of visitors to the district, say hotel and small business owners.

While this may be good news from a conservationist point of view as the district is ecologically sensitive, traders are worried, stating that the “confusion” over the system has affected business.

Statistics from the Nilgiris district administration reveal that since the e-pass system came into effect on May 7, the average number of visitors entering the Nilgiris each day is around 27,000 individuals in around 5,500 vehicles. “This number is actually quite limited for the Nilgiris, as in previous years, we would witness more than 20,000 people visiting the Government Botanical Garden alone each day during the flower show,” said B.A. Mohammed Jaffer, president of an association that includes owners of small hotels, restaurants and bakeries. Mr. Jaffer, who is also the owner of the iconic Ooty Coffee House in Udhagamandalam said that business was down anywhere between 20 to 30 percent in 2024, compared to a regular summer tourist season.

Mr. Jaffer also pointed out that most people were unaware that the e-pass system was auto-generated and that they did not need to wait for approval before travelling to The Nilgiris. “If it had been introduced a few weeks prior to the season, then people would have had some time to figure out the system,” he added.

Tourism Department officials said that the number of tourist visitors has steadily been increasing since the introduction of the system since May 7, from a little over 18,000 travellers on the first day, to a peak of more than 38,000 visitors on May 11, the first day of the annual flower show.

“It also has to be taken into account that the class 12 and class 10 results were also announced over the past ten days, and many people would have stayed away, awaiting the results,” said an official.

N. Chandrashekar, honorary secretary of the Nilgiris Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association (NHRA), said that while there was a small impact on tourist numbers following the announcement of the e-pass system, there were multiple other factors too that had resulted in “slightly fewer” tourist visitors this summer.

“The hotel owners also realize that the government has regularised a lot of homestays in the Nilgiris, where a lot of tourists are now staying instead of at hotels and lodges. This, combined with the board exam results announcements, and the e-pass system, which resulted in fewer tourists, has translated to fewer patrons for the hotels, though the impact is not very significant,” he said.

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