Alappuzha, Oct 8: Even as the authorities vow to contain the spread of Chikungunya within ten days, the viral fever has inflicted a severe blow to the tourism prospects of this district, known for its backwaters.
According to sources from the Houseboat industry, large number of cancellations are taking place every day after news spread that the district was gripped by the fever.
Though the disease had spread in almost all the districts in the state, the maximum number of Chikungunya cases and casualties were reported from the district.''We had expectation that the current season would be an enterprising one as the tourist inflow had started well ahead of the season and we had a handsome number of reservations. However, with the spread of news through media, many foreigners were forced to divert their trips to other countries,'' says Kerala Houseboat Owners Association President Alex.
Mr Alex told UNI around 300 houseboats were operating in the area, and the total turnover in the last year was around Rs 200 crore. They expected an increase of 20 to 25 per cent in tourist inflow in this season.
''However, all our expectations have crumbled down and we will lose around Rs 100 crore this year in the district alone, if the situation continues,'' he added.
Since the foreigners were very cautious in health concerns, the spread of the news forced them to either cancel their trip or to divert journey to other destinations, he said adding the flow of domestic tourists was also affected.
He said the tourists were mainly coming from Germany, UK, France and Middle East. Though the arrival of chartered tourists is expected from next month, we have a good number of group bookings of 30 to 50 members. Though the individual tourists and families had booked for two to three days, they preferred only a single day stay because of the fever.
Alappuzha District Tourist Promotion Council (DTPC) Secretary Vinukumar admitted that there was a considerable decrease in the tourist arrival.
He said the DTPC was receiving a large number of mails each day from these countries asking about the situation in the district.
''Though we are trying our maximum to convince them, still majority of them did not wish to come during this season, because of the media reports'', he added.Normally, the peak season starts from November and large number of domestic and foreign tourists visit the 'Backwater District', considered as the 'Venice of the East' by travellers from across the world.
Majority of the tourists visiting the city enjoy the magnificent backwaters in the cool confines of houseboats. With the Arabian Sea in the west and a vast network of lakes, lagoons and rivers criss-crossing it, for them a journey through the curving and winding backwaters in houseboats (Kettuvallam /Boat house) is an experience of returning to nature.
The state government had already launched measures to contain the the fever. Officials claimed that the situation could be brought under control within ten days.