Mysore/Mysuru: Winter is in the air, so is the battered tourism industry is picking up as the COVID-19 epidemic recedes in Karnataka. Many scenic spots in regions with low risk have reopened to tourists, bringing dawn and hope to the hard-hit industry.
As the epidemic is levelling off, the tourism industry that has not seen much activity since the last 10 months has shown signs of recovery. Restrictions have eased a bit and families are acclimatising themselves to a life where social distancing and face masks are the norm, many have started making travel plans.
The number of daily COVID-infected persons has drastically come down in Mysuru after the surge in July, August and September. Even the recovery rates are high. This has made tourists to slowly arrive to tourist destinations in and around Mysuru.
Industry hit hard
In a normal year, the tourist season starts a month ahead of Dasara and goes on till December and January first week after the New Year celebrations. And tourism is a cross-sector industry where travels and hotels too benefit along with people who are dependent on tourism and the employees of tourism industry.
This year, however, thanks to the virus attack and the resultant lockdown, there was a literal shut down till October. That month also saw low-key Dasara where the Jumboo Savari was restricted to Mysore Palace premises instead of the usual 5-km walk till the Torchlight Parade Grounds.
The tourism peak season is the time when people flock to Mysuru and there is a huge demand for transport (road, rail and air), accommodation, food, shopping and recreation. This year, the scene was different and it literally broke the back of the industry stakeholders. However, the industry is limping back to normalcy and stakeholders say that looking at the number of tourists arriving at tourist spots, it is encouraging and self-assuring.
Increased footfall during weekends
Weekends are showing increased footfalls around Mysore Palace, Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, Chamundeshwari Temple atop Chamundi Hill, KRS Dam, Ranganathittu, Sri Nimishamba Temple, Tripurasundari Jwalamukhi Temple at Uthanahalli, Nanjangud Srikanteshwara Temple, Talakad, Mudukuthore, safaris like in Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Srirangapatna. Though there is no large number of tourists, the existing number of footfalls is encouraging, say industry experts.
The Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) destinations too have reported good footfalls since November second week. KSTDC properties in Mysuru, Kodagu and Srirangapatna were doing very well.
Shunning shared transport
Even many accommodations have started reporting good business of late. “Visitors are travelling to places. The weekends have been very good. Most people are travelling in their own vehicles though, as apprehensions about public and shared transport continue,” KSTDC sources said.
While weekends are doing fairly well, especially in the higher segment as hotels are almost full. Weekdays are, however, suffering still with 20 percent to 30 percent occupancy.
Food and accommodations including the hotel industry now have an added responsibility of ensuring that the virus does not spread. So they are being very strict. Guests have to wear masks and maintain social distance. They have in-house laundries and cleaning is what takes time as they have to disinfect. Hotels are taking longer to hand over rooms to the next guest as there is elaborate cleaning process.
Insurance Companies offer COVID-specific insurance for people to travel fearlessly
Giving a boost to travel amidst pandemic, Insurance Companies are offering COVID-specific insurance so that travellers venture out fearlessly. These insurances benefit travellers with coverage of Rs. 2 lakh per customer.
The insurance covers hospitalisation for 16 days post-travel in case of virus. Other benefits covered under the insurance policy include zero restrictions on room rent, consumables, post-hospitalisation diagnostics, etc. Even a couple of travel companies are offering the insurance for free when a package of a certain amount is booked.
Cinemas still shut
A handful of theatres opened recently but shut down again. With barely 15 to 20 people turning up for a show, theatre owners say the collections don’t even cover hall maintenance. Even producers aren’t willing to release big-budget films, given that seating restrictions are in place. Only 50 percent occupancy is now allowed.
Theatre owners say that with 50 percent occupancy, it is difficult to maintain the halls as salaries, water and electricity bills have to be paid. Also, the annual licence fee has gone up to Rs. 1.2 lakh in two years. It is impossible to pay this amount, they say. Theatre owners are also demanding that electricity rates for theatres be deemed industrial and not commercial, as it is now.