By P.T. Bopanna
The Kodagu (Coorg) district administration in Karnataka has taken the right step in closing down tourist spots in the wake of a surge in Covid-19 cases. However, the government has allowed hotels, resorts and homestays to function by adopting standard operating procedures.
The decision to close down the tourist spots has not gone down well with the tourism sector.
President of the Kodagu Hotel and Resort Association Nagendra Prasaid has been quoted as saying: “The situation would have been understandable if it was a nationwide lockdown and a nationwide ban on tourism. However, only Kodagu is made to face the brunt.”
The president of the association should know that Kodagu is perhaps the only place in India where tourism thrives through illegitimate means. There are an estimated 5,000 homestays in the district with over 25,000 rooms. Out of this nearly 60 per cent are being operated without valid licences. Most of the illegal homestays are run by fly-by-night operators from Kerala.
Unlike Mysuru where it has been made mandatory for tourists to have Covid-19 negative certificate to enter tourist spots, Kodagu is not in a position to entertain tourists in large numbers. Unlike Mysuru, Kodagu lacks infrastructure, including hospital beds for corona patients in the event of a surge in the number of cases. Besides, Kodagu lacks personnel to ensure that the tourists follow safety norms.
It is understandable that the tourism sector has been hit badly by the pandemic especially in Kodagu where a large number of people are dependent on tourist revenue to make a living, following a crash in the price of coffee and pepper.
The various hospitality associations and trade bodies owe an explanation to the public as to why they have not protested against illegal homestays who make a killing by fleecing tourists by not paying taxes to the government. This is the time for introspection by the stake-holders to clean up the mess in the tourism sector in Kodagu.