One year since COVID-19 outbreak, tourism in Nilgiris down by 80%

Pedal boats parked at boat jetty at the Boat house at Ooty lake. The boathouse is shut due to the lockdown   | Photo Credit: SATHYAMOORTHY M

Over the last one year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, tourism to the Nilgiris has fallen by a staggering 80%.

Based on statistics from the Horticulture and Tourism Departments which calculate the number of visitors to the Government Botanical Garden (GBG) in Udhagamandalam as a barometer to gauge the tourist inflow into the district, the number of tourist visitors to the Nilgiris fell from 28.92 lakh visitors in 2019, prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, to 5.88 lakh visitors in 2020.

In 2021, only 63,850 visitors have been recorded. “Cumulatively, since the pandemic began, tourism has fallen by more than 80%, as most of the visitors in 2020 had visited prior to the first cases being reported in Tamil Nadu,” officials from the Horticulture Department said.

While the gardens and parks were opened during the last few months of 2020, the district once again closed to tourists earlier this year after the second wave of infections hit the State.

Tourists guides badly affected

Some of the most affected by the tourism industry shutting down, which apart from agriculture, supports the largest number of people in the Nilgiris, are tourist guides.

John Bosco, a tourist guide and tour operator in Udhagamandalam, said that there were around 120 tourist guides, out of whom 26 are certified guides who help travellers find their way to popular tourist spots and also help arrange accommodation. “These guides would earn anywhere between 1,500 to Rs. 2,000 a day during peak season. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are struggling to pay bills and provide for their families,” he said.

Similarly, boatmen who operate paddle and motorboats at the Ooty Lake and Boat House have also had their livelihoods impacted. According to officials, there are around 40 boatmen working at the Ooty Lake and Boat House, and they are paid based on the number of boat trips they make each day. “As the Ooty Lake and Boat House too, have not been functioning for the large part of 2020 and 2021, their livelihoods have been affected,” said an official from the Tourism Department. The Department has written to the government to provide monetary relief to the boatmen, and officials say they hope that tourists would once again be allowed into the Nilgiris in the coming months.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 5:02:21 AM |

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