Scaling down Dasara is bad for tourism: The show must go on…
By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
Coorg has been devastated. Yes, it is true but only parts of it. So why close the full Kodagu district for tourists? We do not respond to a situation but react. The result is hasty decisions taken with or without any reasons, says N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Senior Vice-President, ITDC, in this article. Now read on…
Several times in my earlier articles I have mentioned that “Over Tourism” is going to sound the death knell for tourism of this hilly district. In several cities across the globe this over tourism is killing the tourism industry. Take London, Amsterdam or even Spain for that matter. My daughter had been to London recently and was disgusted. How do you feel about 2 to 3 hours queue for all tourist spots? This was the minimum wait. Overcrowded museums. The city was so crowded, it was difficult to even move at certain places. Shortage of taxis, overcrowded metros and the list is endless. Even the shop-keepers were not happy. Because of the rush, good customers preferred to walk away and did not do any purchase.
A recent report has suggested that the reason for this crowding is “Airbnb” concept, similar to our Home Stays. Due to the demand, many a homes have become a member of Airbnb business. Crowds have multiplied manifold. Back-packers and cheap tourists, no one really wants.
The same is happening in our dear Kodagu. When the idea of Home Stays was mooted, it was done to augment the income of estate owners who were going through difficult times because of the fall in price of coffee for several years in a row. But our greedy citizens have taken this concept to another height. Imagine, 3,500 Home Stays out of which the approved ones are hardly 500 in such a small district! The result is there in the open. Piles of garbage, water shortage, the list is endless.
A recent clip showing the locals in Shimla requesting the tourists to kindly move out of the city is a new reality. One has to just go to Ooty during summer. It is disgusting, dirty, heavily overcharged and every tourist is fleeced by everyone including parking attendants too. Recently, the Karnataka Forest Department took a decision to restrict the number of trekkers in popular trekking routes like Skandagiri, Kudremukh etc., as the heap of trash in those locations have become a big problem. Even our Himalayas have not been spared. Tons of garbage en route the summit.
What is the solution? Some years back, in Kerala they had a similar problem in a very beautiful tourist spot called Kumarakom. The Department decided that this spot be earmarked for upper class tourists only and hence they banned construction of one star to 3 star hotels in that area. Permits were issued for construction of 4 or 5 star resorts only. All existing small budget hotels were asked to either upgrade or shut shop. Excellent results. Top-end tourists started to come there. Fewer footfalls than earlier but at the end of the day the resorts started making more money. Because of fewer footfalls, the area could be cleaned easily and maintained well.
It is time, the Tourism Department earmarks certain areas of Kodagu district under a similar scheme. These areas should have only high-end hotels and Home Stays. Existing Home Stays in that area should be clearly told to upgrade their properties or shut shop.
Cheap Home Stays should be closed down. Automatically the footfalls will come down and the place can be maintained well. The load on infrastructure too will reduce. A win-win situation. This will also help the neighbouring Mysuru district since they will also start getting high-end tourists.
For all the above to happen, it is important to have a “sustainable tourism policy” in place. It is estimated that at least 20 to 25 percent of tourist spots in the State have reached the optimum footfalls stage and unless controlled, can lead to natural disasters on a later date. The Department of Tourism should have officials who are eco-sensitive and having ground experience in tourism management. Tourism being the least prominent Ministry in the Cabinet, who is going to bell the cat and make a policy? With Kodagu ravaged, this is the right time to frame some basic rules for eco-tourism and stop further damage to the eco-system.
Col. (Retd.) C.P. Muthanna, President, Coorg Wildlife Society, has suggested a “pass system” for reduction of tourist footfalls in sensitive areas — a good concept no doubt. The locals who depend on footfalls are going to oppose it. But I do hope wisdom prevails. In the short run, it may look as if business has reduced but in the long run the whole district will prosper.
It is time, the Forest Department implements “seed ball” concept to green the areas which have been devastated by nature.
Before marketing a new tourist destination, the Department should ensure that the basic infrastructure is in place. With no tourism infrastructure, our Tourism Department announced the Jalapatotsava at Gaganachukki and the result, a 3-km traffic jam!
There was some talk of scaling down Dasara this year. Does it make any marketing sense? When the business is down, one requires to market the destination in a bigger way. We should go ahead with full scale celebration of Dasara. The impression a tourist should get is that everything is normal in this region and we are back in business. Some parts of Coorg will resume and why deprive them of business by unnecessary talks of scaling down? Do you agree?