Nipah scare spells loss for travel agents
Fear surrounding the Nipah virus has spelt losses to the tourism industry, not just in Kerala but in other places as well.
‘God’s Own Country’ may be one of the preferred destination for not only foreign tourists but also those from north India and the neighbouring State of Karnataka, but travel agents and tour operators from Bengaluru are reporting cancellations or rescheduling of trips to Kerala.
Shamanth Krishnamurthy, owner of a travel agency, said most tourists heading to south India keep Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as their main options, but now they are dropping Kerala. “Many tourists do not prefer Kerala because of the virus scare. There are no cancellations though as we don’t do fixed departures. But they are not looking for Kerala. There are no enquiries for Shimla too (where there is a water scarcity),” he said.
M. Ravi, a member of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, said ‘Nipah cancellations’ were plenty even in his agency. “Five large groups — ranging from 40 to 80 people in each group — have cancelled, all to confirmed destinations: Wayanad, Wild Planet (Gundlupet), Kumarakom, and Kovalam. I have had to shift them to destinations in Goa and Karnataka. They don’t want to take the risk. Given that Kerala is such a well-marketed destination, with a lot of options for accommodation, many people usually pick Kerala for their holidays,” he said.
The overall loss due to cancellations is around ₹20 lakh, he said, though the peak holiday season is almost over with schools having reopened in many parts.
Sandeep Thamankar, owner of another travel agency in Bengaluru, said there have been been around 20 cancellations for him. “The virus is concentrated near the Kozhikode area, but because of social media reach and some fake messages that urged people to avoid going to Kerala, many people are scared to go even though many regions [in Kerala] have not been affected at all. Even today, a client package worth ₹4 lakh was cancelled,” he said, adding that there has been a drop of 10% in profits since reports of the virus began.