KALPETTA: The suspected Maoist attacks at two different locations in Wayanad recently have reportedly choked the inflow of both domestic and foreign tourists to the district.
The attack on a private jungle resort at Thirunelly, in particular, has had an adverse impact on tourism activities, with large groups of tourists cancelling their bookings from December to January, which is supposed to be the peak tourism season, say sources in the tourism industry. The exchange of fire between an armed gang and Thunderbolts commandos in the forest near Vellamunda last week is also expected to have seriously affected the prospects of tourism in the district, despite the fact that the incident occurred in a remote area not frequented by tourists.
Though the officials of the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) maintain that the tense situation has not seriously affected the sector, private operators admit that they have already started to feel the pinch.
“During the past couple of weeks, there have been many cancellations due to the bird flu scare. A 25-member group from Chennai put off their plans following the confirmation of an outbreak of avian flu in the state. This week, there have been around 10 cancellations so far. Many foreign groups have cancelled their bookings for December, presumably due to the reported Maoist attacks,” says Sunil Kumar, an official of a tour operating agency in Kalpetta.
“Normally, foreign tourists get information about their destinations through internet before booking tours. They choose not to risk a trip to Wayanad in the current precarious situation,” he adds.
In fact, many resorts and homestays in the district are expecting more cancellations. Holidayers are also reportedly desisting from tourism activities like trekking and sight-seeing as a result of the reported presence of insurgent groups in forest areas.
Agraharam Resorts, which came under suspected Maoist attack on November 18, had shut down operations soon after the late-night attack. “We incurred a loss of about `9 lakh in the incident, which saw cancellations in the range of 50 to 60 per cent. The villas were leased out to Greenroutes Hospitality for a five-year period, but the operators are forced to end the contract after around two-and-a-half years, fearing a permanent damage to the image of the property,” a staffer of the ill-fated resort says.
According to him, many of the employees express concern over their safety and they want to quit their jobs.
The four-member gang, which forced entry into the resort located on the fringes of the forests by breaking the barbed-wire fence, had damaged window panes, phones, the computer and the printer at the resort’s office.
The impact of the drop in tourist inflow is being felt not only by hotels and resorts, but also by thousands working in allied sectors such as taxi drivers, guides and artisans who sell handicraft items.