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No Dasara cheer for Kodagu tourism

The Dasara festivities and holidays have brought little cheer to the picturesque Kodagu district. Well over a month after heavy rains wreaked havoc in parts of the district, the tourism sector continues to suffer losses at a time when it usually receives good tidings.

Ramesh Chengappa, manager of Coorghomestays.com, which has around 35 homestays affiliated to it, described it a “very bad scene”. “Usually, in October and December, when schools have holidays, we have a lot of visitors. A month before Dasara, we are almost full. But this year, people are keeping away because they do not know if the situation has improved since the floods,” he said.

Mr. Chengappa said compared to October 2017, when there was 85% occupancy, this year the rate has not even hit 35%. The section of society that has been affected most by this slump are planters with smaller land holdings who were making a significant income from running homestays, he said.

“During the floods, we cancelled bookings and gave full refunds. People made enquiries when the situation improved. But they assume all of Kodagu is affected. A majority of the homestays are in south Kodagu, while north Kodagu was affected worse in the floods. But people are unable to see the difference. Planters with five to 20 acres, who had started seeing good returns from running homestays and had expanded, have not been hit,” Mr. Chengappa added .

Navin Poonacha from the Coorg Homestay Association, which has around 400 registered homestays, also said enquiries were coming in but they were not translating into bookings. “Though properties such as mine, which is for budget travellers, are doing fine now, there has been a big impact overall. There is a big slump especially in bookings through online aggregators,” he said.

Bengaluru-based tour operators, who pitch Kodagu among the top destinations in Karnataka, have also been affected. Sandeep Keshav Thamankar, a tour operator, said almost 90% of the bookings were cancelled. “The fear factor is still there. As a result, many people are losing income, especially restaurant owners and staff, spice and coffee store owners, and many others connected to the tourism industry,” he said. The industry is now pinning its hopes on December for things to improve.

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