COVID-19: Hampi, key attractions in Kodagu among places closed for a week

Golden Chariot’s March 22 trip stands cancelled

March 15, 2020 12:11 am | Updated 12:19 am IST - Kalaburagi/Mysuru/Bengaluru

A file photo of the stone chariot at Hampi in Ballari district.

A file photo of the stone chariot at Hampi in Ballari district.

The tourism sector continues to face a blow this holiday season, with most travellers putting off plans by choosing to stay safe in the light of COVID-19 threat and some key heritage places such as Hampi being closed for a week as part of precautionary measure. The restrictions on entry of visitors to India has also contributed to the low footfall.

Tourist attractions in Kodagu too will be closed for a week.

Ballari Deputy Commissioner S.S. Nakul ordered the closure of heritage sites in Hampi exercising powers vested under Section 144(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Deputy Commissioner and the District Magistrate issued the order on Saturday banning the entry of all tourists between 6 a.m. of March 15 and 6 a.m. of March 22.

Since the monuments in Hampi have been recognised as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO, there is heavy footfall of foreign and local tourists, many of whom arrive at the location without undergoing the 14-day compulsory quarantine, Mr. Nakul said.

Kodagu will also see main tourism attractions shut from Sunday for a week, including Raja Seat in Madikeri and Cauvery Nisargadhama near Kushalnagar. Footfall had fallen hugely in Kodagu since January after COVID-19 cases were reported from Kerala. Occupancy rates in resorts and homestays had come down to less than 20% owing to cancellation of bookings.

Two back-to-back calamities in the district had badly affected tourism and the stakeholders, who had been facing continuous losses, had sought aid from the government for dealing with the situation.

Entry of tourists, both Indian and foreign, to the historical Brindavan Gardens and the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary has been banned for an indefinite period owing to the COVID-19 scare. Mandya Deputy Commissioner M.V. Venkatesh issued the closure order on Friday night. Both places attract lakhs of visitors annually.

The Vijayapura district administration has also banned the entry of visitors to historical monuments, including Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Roza.

Districts to take a call

The State government has given powers to the district administration to take a call on shutting down tourism destinations. Minister for Tourism C.T. Ravi told The Hindu that the government had been sharing health bulletins from the Centre and the State, and it was up to the district administration to decide on whether tourism spots should be open or not.

“Only large gatherings have been suspended. But if the districts want to take a precautionary measure and close tourism spots, it is their call. They have all been advised to follow basic processes such as use of masks and sanitisers,” he added.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), on the other hand, has not announced closure of any monuments as of now. Shivakant Bajpai, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Bengaluru Circle, said that “as of now”, monuments under the Bengaluru Circle will remain open despite lower footfall. The temples at Belur and Halebid, ASI monuments, were open to tourists on Saturday.

The Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) properties too continue to remain operational. KSTDC managing director Kumar Pushkar said its properties were open, but had registered extremely low occupancy rates of 26%.

The outbreak has, however, led to the cancellation of the debut run of luxury train Golden Chariot, which was scheduled for March 22.

The train, which completed a decade’s run, had undergone a change in reigns with the IRCTC coming on board, as well as physical changes.

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