Nipah threat: Tourism industry feels pinch 

The Kerala government has declared containment zones in seven panchayats in Kozhikode district following two Nipah deaths.

Published: 15th September 2023 07:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th September 2023 07:23 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose.

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Apprehensions loom large over the tourism industry after Nipah reared its head again in the state. This is happening at a time when Kerala Tourism is riding high as domestic tourist arrivals are witnessing an all-time high after the pandemic lull. In the first half of 2023, Kerala saw a massive 20.1 per cent increase in the arrival of domestic tourists compared to last year. With the tourism season fast approaching, the recurrence of Nipah, if not contained, is likely to have an adverse impact on tourist arrivals in the state, say stakeholders in the industry. 

The state government has declared containment zones in seven panchayats in Kozhikode district following two Nipah deaths. The tour operators and hoteliers have started getting cancellation calls on the bookings. “My agents are forwarding news reports on the Nipah outbreak, and after Covid, people are more cautious and scared about any kind of virus. Two of my clients who were supposed to visit Munnar, Kumarakom, and Kovalam from Assam and Gujarat have cancelled their trips.

I tried to convince them but didn’t want to force it, as it was a risk for me too. I didn’t want to take responsibility for that. What if the situation worsens after they arrive,” says Viswanath Upadhyay, a Nagpur-based travel agent, who has been in the industry for the past 26 years. 

“Tourism in Kerala is booming, and 80% of my business happens in Kerala. I already have several bookings for the coming months. I hope the government will take steps to contain the virus before the tourism season,” Viswanath adds. 

The tourism and hospitality industry has already started feeling the heat after the news of the Nipah outbreak is spreading like wildfire in the national media. 

Especially, the hotels and resorts in the Malabar region are flooded with inquiries, and according to them, cancellation of bookings would adversely impact the upcoming season. 

This is the fourth time Nipah cases have been reported in the state, and Wayanad was one of the worst-affected destinations in Kerala in the past.  “We are getting numerous calls from clients to check whether there are any travel restrictions in Kerala, as they don’t have any clarity. We all are scared as once during the Nipah outbreak in the past, the occupancy at Wayanad hotels was zero and many had to keep the resorts shut during that time. If the situation is not brought under control, the industry will have to face the brunt,” said Sudheesh Nair of Stride Hotels and Resorts. 

E M Najeeb, president of the Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry, said that as of now the situation is under control.  “The government should take steps to contain and prevent further spread of the virus. If it is brought under control, the industry will not be affected. We are getting a lot of calls from tourists, and we are trying to convince them that there is nothing to worry about,” he said. 

Malabar tourism meet postponed

In view of the Nipah scare, the executive committee of the Malabar Tourism Meet, scheduled to be held from September 22 to 24, has decided to postpone the event. The district administration has issued an order restricting the conduct of big events in the next 10 days owing to the Nipah situation. The office-bearers said the event will be held in June 2024 next year and the new dates will be announced soon. As many as 3,000 delegates were expected to take part in the event aimed at promoting tourism in the Malabar region. An office-bearer said the district administration wanted us to conduct the event with minimum participation and hence postponed it as participation is very key to serving the purpose of the meeting.

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