Year after deluge, fear overshadows Kodagu tourism

A file photo of tourists at Raja Seat in Madikeri earlier this year.

A file photo of tourists at Raja Seat in Madikeri earlier this year.  

Tourism Dept. planning campaign to encourage people to visit Western Ghats

Close to a year after heavy rains caused unprecedented damage to parts of Kodagu district — a prime tourist destination in the State — visitors still appear to be wary of visiting it.

City-based tour operators said bookings to the district have been dull, while those for Kerala, which was saw large-scale devastation during last year’s rains, had picked up. Popular destinations such as Wayanad, Munnar, Thekkady and Alappuzha have started getting bookings, they said.

Dilip Chengappa, managing partner, Coorghomestays.com, which markets homestays exclusively in Kodagu, said though there were enquiries coming in, it was nothing like before the floods and landslips.

“Monsoon is usually a lean season. Though some visitors come in June, once the monsoon fully sets in, only very adventurous tourists venture to travel to the Western Ghats. But enquiries and bookings have been 50% fewer than before the floods,” he said.

Recent reports of Makkandur Gram Panchayat putting out a travel advisory ahead of the monsoon (which was later reportedly withdrawn) also added to the confusion. “There is a fear. When the reports about the panchayat directive came out, there was a lot of confusion. Some said it had asked for a total ban on tourism, others said it was only for a part of Kodagu. But tourists will think the whole place is dangerous and decide to pick another place. We received a lot of calls after these reports, and though we have clarified it, there is still fear among people,” said Mr. Chengappa.

The Karnataka Tourism Department is planning to start a campaign to encourage people to visit the Western Ghats. Kumar Pushkar, Director, Tourism, and Managing Director, Karnataka State Tourism Department Corporation (KSTDC), said the corporation’s properties had been hit by the slump. “Our two properties in Bhagamandala and Madikeri alone incurred losses of close to ₹3 crore last year. The overall losses if you consider private resorts and accommodation will run into several crores. Bookings picked up only in November – not even during the Dasara holidays. The local economy was also affected,” he said.

Mr. Pushkar said last year’s disaster was unexpected, yet many tourists were too scared to travel to Kodagu or Kerala, and had diverted their plans to other places. He also dismissed the panchayat directive, and said it was not the ‘competent authority’ to be doing so.

With local operators in Kodagu seeking better streamlining of the industry and an end to illegal constructions, he said the Tourism Department was focussing on responsible tourism, including registration of all homestays. “Of the 1,300 that have registered, a majority are in Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru and Hassan. We want to encourage more to voluntarily register,” he added.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 9:44:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/year-after-deluge-fear-overshadows-kodagu-tourism/article27699008.ece

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