MUNNAR: After 12 years, the Munnar Hills seems to be bathed in a dreamy shade of blue with the blooming of Neelakurinji (strobilanthes kunthiana) as the flower, rarest of the rare, does not grow in any other part of the world.
"Though Kerala expects eight lakh tourists to Munnar in this three-months flowering season, the Government's effort to collect donations from outside the State and foreign nations, creating an impression that it is flood-ravaged, had spoil-sported the tourist inflow into Munnar, which was not affected in flood," sources in tourism industry told UNI.
"Due to the Government propaganda, the people outside Kerala feel that all places in the State were ravaged in the floods forcing them to choose tourist destinations other than Munnar, which was actually not affected in the calamity," Sources felt.
"Compared to the room revenue of Rs 21.73 lakh from 85.45 per cent tourist occupancy in our hotel in August-2017, the room revenue in August-2018 dropped nose down to just 4.97 lakh from 11.91 per cent occupancy reflecting the poor tourist inflow in the current season," Clouds Valley Hotel General Manager Mr V Vinod told UNI.
When compared to the room revenue of 23.56 lakh from the occupancy of 72.05 per cent in September 2017, till this date in September 2018, the revenue was merely Rs 78,000 from 6.37 per cent occupancy from our hotel, showing huge loss to the tourism industry," Mr Vinod felt.
"Though the tourist locations of Munnar are not affected in floods, the State Tourism Department is yet to mention this fact in their official website to avoid the fear of potential customers," Mr Vinod added.
"Neelakurinji blooms only in every 12 years. The last was in 2006. That is why Munnar and Western Ghats got into the list of Best Places to Visit in Asia in 2018 by the Lonely Planet," he pointed out.
According to tribals, they used Neelakurinji bloom to calculate their age.
The flower, which has no smell or any medicinal value, can't be seen anywhere in the world other than Western Ghats.
This endangered species grow at a height of 30 to 60 cm on hills slopes at an altitude of 1300 to 2400 meters where there is no tree forest.
Most of the bookings in this flowering season were cancelled following the news of floods in the State.
The hotels and resorts were the worst-affected sector in Munnar, according to sources of Munnar Hotels and Resorts Association (MHRA).
As many as 628,427 tourists had visited Munnar in 2017 with an increase of 34.31 percent as compared to 467,881 vacationers in 2016.
The unique life cycle of the plant makes the hills a must-visit destination for travel enthusiasts.
The majestic Nilgiri Tahr, the endangered mountain goat endemic to these hills can also be spotted.
Some of the nearby attractions include Anamudi Peak, the tallest in South India that has best trekking trails in the country and Eravikulam National Park, the first of its kind, where the endangered Nilgiri Thar is protected.
The Eravikulam National Park is the main Neelakurinji flowering area and nearly 2,750 tourists are allowed every day.
The authorities would allow additional 40 per cent visitors during the flowering season.
Enticingly perched at a height of 1600 m above sea level, and nestled in between the confluence of the cool Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala streams, Munnar is one of the most sought-after leisure travel destinations in India.