Coronavirus | Second wave of COVID-19 deals body blow to Kumarakom

Tourists visiting Kumarakom, a global village destination in Kottayam, before the advent of COVID-19 outbreak   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

There was a mega flood in 2018, followed by another later next year. Then came the regional health scare, the Nipah outbreak.

But over the years since its emergence as a globally acclaimed village destination, Kumarakom has not witnessed anything remotely like the impact of the COVID-19. And just when it was bouncing back from the impact of the pandemic-induced lock down last year, the second wave of the pandemic has dealt a body blow to the tourism business in the destination.

A village used to receive over seven million visitors annually. However, the lines of tourists that were usual once have disappeared now. The famed house boats have once again begun idling along the canal banks while the hotels and resorts have all wound up operation for the time-being.

“The second wave and the corresponding lock down has dashed the hopes of a recovery that was based on an increasing domestic tourist arrival since November 2020”, pointed out Arun Kumar K., secretary, Chamber of Vembanad Hotels and Resorts (CVHR). A sector that provides employment to around 2500 people directly and thousands of others indirectly, the hospitality sector here is now looking up to the State government to declare the segment as an industry for some relief.

While the lock down last year was particularly severe on the middle and bottom-line operators, the second wave has not spared even the high-scale operators. “The fixed cost obligations are taking a toll on the investors, who may be forced to look beyond tourism if the business does not recover in another six months”, he added.

The village’s local economy, which is primarily dependent on tourism, is too reeling under the shock. Among the most affected are operators and staff of the houseboats and small-sized shikara boats, who have huge bank loans to repay. The zero bookings have forced the workforce to take up casual work to make their both ends meet.

Taking a serious note of the situation, the Responsible Tourism (RT) Mission, Kerala has now engaged the workers and artisans registered with it in alternative source of livelihood such as farming. “The local economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism, has all but crumbled. Hence, we have engaged them in alternative sectors to ensure daily income”, said K.Rupesh Kumar, Coordinator, RT mission.

At the same time, the online training for enlisted participants in the village life packages and home stays Responsible Tourism and value addition activities are progressing without much hindrance.

As per estimates by the RT Mission, the annual income raked in by the 3500-odd units across the backwater villages came down from 5.5 crore in 2019- 20 to ₹85 lakh in 20-21. The revenue from RT units in the first month of the ongoing financial year, meanwhile, is zero.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 4:41:08 AM |

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