Nipah Virus Scare Is Keeping Tourists Away From Kerala, Industry Braces For More Loses
The outbreak of the deadly Nipah Virus could not have happened in Kerala at worst time. The state which attracts millions of domestic and foreign tourists was gearing up for another good year when the outbreak surfaced.
With Northern India sizzling under summer heat and the upcoming holiday season in the Gulf countries, the state would have welcomed a large number of holidaymakers in the coming weeks.
This is in addition to the monsoon tourists who throng the state every year in June and July to enjoy the rains, houseboat ride and Ayurveda massages, which the state is famous for.
But with the confusion over Nipah looming large, many tour operators have seen their bookings cancelled or postponed.
“In Northern India, it is the holiday season now, due to which we get many tourists from there. However, the news of the Nipah virus has led to almost 50 to 60 per cent cancellation of bookings. We are also getting inquiries from Gulf countries, as the Arab holiday season is approaching. It has created unnecessary panic,” Tourism Profession Club Secretary Paul told ANI.
The news of Nipah Virus have been widely reported in the international media, but so far only Bahrain has issued an advisories against travelling to Kerala.
UAE has only advised its citizens to take precautionary measures and follow instructions issued by the concerned Indian authorities.
Those in the industry say advisories by more countries could have serious consequences for the tourism in the state, especially on the arrival of Non-resident Keralites, who often visit the state with their families.
Tour operators also pointed out that so far Nipah has been confirmed only in two districts, Kozhikode and Malappuram, which are not among the most sought after destinations.
Kerala Tourism in its advisory has asked tourists to avoid Kozhikode, Malappuram and neighbouring districts of Wayanad and Kannur, though no cases have surfaced from the two districts.
Reiterating that other parts of Kerala are safe to visit, the industry said they have taken additional precautions and have left nothing for chance.
“All the tourist locations and the state in general are safe as usual for holiday activities. The tourism industry partners in the state are more vigilant and equipped to provide a hassle-free holiday to the visiting travellers. The airports, railway stations, hotels and places of visit all are following the right protocols and are free of problems as usual,” said the statement issued by the president of the Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry (CKTI) EM Najeeb.
Tour operators who have seen their bookings cancelled blamed the media for blowing the epidemic outbreak out of proportion.
“Media is portraying it in such a way that tourists believe the whole of Kerala is affected by the disease. I have lost business due to this, as travellers are cancelling trips booked even for the next month,” a tour operator based in Kochi said.
Another section affected by the outbreak of Nipah is the fruit vendors across the state. With initial reports claiming that the deadly virus was transmitted to humans from bats through fruits bitten by them, fruit vendors say customers are turning away from them. Traders said since 75% of the fruits sold in Kerala are brought from outside, there is no reason to be concerned about the fruits.
So far 11 people have been confirmed dead due to the deadly outbreak, while more than a dozen other are admitted in hospitals with suspected symptoms.
An expert committee of medical professionals sent by the Union Health Ministry has said that the Nipah Virus in Kerala seems to be localised and not a major outbreak.