By P.T. Bopanna
Tourism has bounced back in Kodagu (Coorg) thanks to the just concluded New Year celebrations which brought back hordes of tourists who had deserted the most popular hill station in South India following the killer landslides.
The government had banned tourism in Coorg from August 16 to September 9 following a spate of landslides which struck the hill station last August on account of unprecedented rains. Parts of the state highways had been washed away due to landslides.
Tourists had stopped visiting Coorg in the wake of the landslides and this had affected the business of homestays and hotels.
Though government and tourism agencies held publicity campaigns to assure the visitors that Coorg was safe, not many responded fearing landslides. The tourism sector suffered heavy losses in the last few months for lack of business.
All that changed overnight in the last week of 2018 as holiday-makers in large numbers headed for Coorg to celebrate the New Year. Most of the homestays and hotels reported full occupancy. This was helped by the fact that hotels and homestays had offered discounts on the tariff.
The traffic jams were back in Madikeri, the district headquarters, leading to the woes of the local residents who had respite from the jams during the lean season.
There is no guarantee that the tourist flow will continue in 2019, considering the fact that the roads and highways have been badly damaged by the floods. Moreover, the roads affected by the landslides have not been rebuilt. Instead, sandbags have been stacked to temporarily allow the movement of vehicular traffic in places where the roads had caved in. A Madikeri resident remarked: “Placing sandbags to hold the roads which have caved in is like applying band-aid on a deep wound.”
Unless the roads are rebuilt, there is no guarantee that they will be motorable in the next monsoon.
It is a welcome move to hold a three-day Pravasi Utsav in Coorg from January 11 to 13.
This is the right time to weed out illegal homestays which have brought a bad name for Coorg. It is no secret that government officials and police are hand-in-glove with the owners of illegal homestays who indulge in nefarious activities.