KERALA

Heavy rush for boat ride

A Correspondent

KATTAPPANA: With the arrival of festival season, Thekkady is choking with an influx of tourists. Most of them are whingeing about the poor facilities at the tourist spot. Tourists visiting the region prefer a boat ride in the Periyar Lake but are not able to get a boarding pass issued by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation and the Forest Department for the ride.

According to officials at the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), the number of tourists who wish to have a boat ride this season is three times more than the number of persons that can be accommodated. Even though there are other attractions like trekking and elephant ride in Thekkady, most tourists prefer boat-riding.

“We have received complaints that tourism agencies and agents are booking boarding passes for tourists, and so it has been decided that those who want a boat ride should personally take ticket,” Georgi P. Mathachen, Deputy Director, PTR, told The Hindu on Saturday.

During the last Onam season, there was heavy rush and tourists clashed with each other in front of ticket counters. Many tourists returned without getting the boarding passes for the boat ride. During the Pooja vacation, hordes of domestic tourists visited the place, an official said.

Dispute

According to Mr. Mathachen, advance booking for boat ride was never allowed in Thekkady, but travel agency representatives stand in the queue to take tickets for their clients. Since tourists have made complaints against this practice, it has been decided that tickets will be given directly to the tourists. But resort groups and travel agencies say that if foreign tourists do not get tickets, it will affect the tourism industry in Thekkady.

“Foreigners usually plan the trip two or three months in advance and the boat-ride is one of the attractions. The recent decision of the authorities to make the tourists stand in queue for hours will adversely affect Thekkady as a tourism destination,” said the managing director of a tourism resort. According to him, the decision to give tickets to tourists alone was not conveyed to the stakeholders in the industry in advance.

If foreign tourists are forced to stand in queue, most of them would not want to visit Thekkady, said the manager of an international travel agency at Thekkady. According to him, for a couple of days that coincided with the Pooja vacation many foreign tourists had to return without getting the boarding passes. “December to January is the peak season for foreign tourists and by mid-November foreigners start arriving in groups. The entry fee of foreign tourist to Thekkady is Rs.300 and without providing boat services, it is improper to charge this amount from them,” said a travel agency employee.

The KTDC has five boats and three boats are run by the Forest Department in Thekkady. With three more boats under construction in Thekkady, it is expected that the heavy rush will be reduced considerably.

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