Dehradun: Basking in the sun on the picturesque Nainital lakeside, 42-year-old Suresh Chand, a boatman who takes tourists for joyrides, says he has heard about some “Krona bimari”. Visitors have stopped coming. For boatmen like Chand, who earn about Rs 500, a day no tourists means no money.
On Friday, Uttarakhand decided to ban entry of domestic and international tourists in a precautionary measure to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading. With this order coming into force, the tourism industry will witness a lockdown till “further orders”.
However, since the last 10 days, thousands of small businesses, hotels, resorts, food stalls, etc, have been experiencing a ‘slowdown’. Sensing the gravity of the ongoing situation, the hotel association in Nainital decided to close its establishments from Friday. There are more than 300 small and big tourist establishments in the town.
Besides Nainital, Mussoorie, Ranikhet, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Almora and many other places have become virtual ‘ghost towns’ with almost zero tourist inflow. Hoteliers in the temple town say that tourists, mostly foreigners, who throng the place, have cancelled advance bookings.
The busy Mansa Devi temple in the town that would bustle with the rush now has a bleak look. A local priest, Amar Upadhyay, said, “This is perhaps first time in my life that there are hardly any people coming to the temple.”
Uttarakhand tourism secretary Dilip Jawalkar told News18 that the coronavirus outbreak has created an unprecedented situation and if required the government will assess the losses.
“We are just in the middle of the crisis and no one knows how long will it continue,” he said.
“In the post-GST era, state governments don’t have much in hand, but then too the government will look into it as and when required.”
The tourism season picks up in the state with the onset of spring and goes on to the end of summer. March so far has been dull for the industry and the coming weeks offer no hope.
The tourism industry had experienced a bad phase till 2015 after the Kedarnath disaster killed over 5,000 people in June 2013. According to the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) estimates, the tourism industry then experienced losses to the tune of Rs 12,000 crore.