Summer holidays, the longest for school and college students and their families, command peak time tariffs due to the high demand. But last year, March-end ushered in a lifestyle unknown to many – locked up at home with nowhere to go.
Big travel plans are still a mile away, but domestic tourism surely and slowly started picking up as lockdown norms were eased. Now, a second wave of infections poses a threat to yet another summer vacation period.
According to M. Ravi, joint secretary of Karnataka Tourism Society, hotel bookings have fallen by more than 50%. “Tourist transport has also been hit badly. If this continues, travel, tourism and hospitality will be in deep trouble,” he said. One of the reasons is the lack of uniformity in precautions and protocol among different States. “They have to remove the requirement of an RT-PCR for certain States or make it mandatory for all. Each State has its own rules now,” he added.
Sanjar Imam, president, Karnataka Tourism Forum, admitted there is concern with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. “Several have put travel plans on hold, but we haven’t seen cancellations for travel in the summer yet,” they said.
Representatives of the sector from popular destinations in Karnataka echoed similar views. Jimmi Chengappa, general manager, Coorghomestays.com, said enquiries have become fewer. “To Kodagu, 90% of the traffic is usually from Bengaluru, which is still coming in. But in peak season during April-May, we also get tourists from Delhi, Mumbai, etc. Now tourists from Maharashtra are not coming because of the COVID-19 regulations there,” he said.
Adding that the market did recover post the lockdown, he said some homestays were doing very well. “But like last time, if there is a ban on tourism by the district administration or if there is a lockdown-like situation in Bengaluru, it will be detrimental for another peak season,” he said.
Gurudev. S.H., founder of Chikkamagalurustays.in and Sakleshpurstays.in, said till last Sunday, there were a good number of enquiries, but since the slew of meetings under the Chief Minister’s leadership about the second wave, enquiries have plummeted. “There are no cancellations, but no fresh bookings either. For April, we had started getting enquiries from Chennai and Mumbai, but now many people have put their plans on hold. With the panic around COVID-19 now, they are being cautious,” he said.
Mr. Gurudev admitted that the situation looks bleak because of the uncertainty. “For many, tourism is their bread and butter, and for others, it was a compensatory income especially when they have suffered losses in plantations due to unseasonal rains,” he said.
Officials with the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) said the Tirupati package, a popular offering from the corporation, was continuing to see a good response. However, enquiries for other packages are beginning to see an impact from the increasing number of COVID-19 cases being reported, officials added.
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