Kottayam, Mar 18 : Kumarakom, the backwater landscape of Kottayam, where seven million visitors used to visit annually for sailing through the canals in houseboats, is now almost empty due to spread of COVID-19. The houseboats were lying idle along the canal banks and most of the local shops closed. Normally March and April were the peak season for tourists from abroad who used to line up for catching houseboats for a ride through the canal.
The spread of COVID-19 has hit a big blow to this internationally acclaimed backwater destination which was on the path to recovery from the setbacks due to floods during the past two years. The district authorities have imposed strict regulations on the stay of foreigners in hotels and resorts in this district which is likely to be extended to next month. Kumarakom is the worst hit, considering its proximity to Chengalam where two persons were tested positive and several people are under quarantine. Though the Kumarakom village received fairly good number of foreigners in January and February, the outbreak of Coronavirus has caused panic among local people who are vary of interacting with foreigners, Tourism Department officials said.
The most affected are operators of houseboats and small-sized boats, who have huge bank loans to repay. All the 120-odd houseboats and 58 small boats that operate out of Kumarakom were docked for over a fortnight, the officials said. A sharp decline in the daily income of the local people, primarily dependent on tourism, was witnessed in the village. State Responsible Tourism Mission Co-ordinator K Roopesh Kumar said the bookings for accommodation and houseboats would be revived based on the directions from the government. "We have received an advisory from the District Medical Board against the free movement of guests through the interiors as a precautionary measure against the spread of virus. Accordingly the bookings for about 500 guests have been cancelled."(UNI)