Mandatory COVID-19 test for tourists from Kerala drives down visitors to the Nilgiris

A steep reduction in footfall witnessed at key attractions like parks and gardens

The number of tourists coming to the Nilgiris from Kerala has come down in the last few days after the district administration announced that they would have to undergo a COVID-19 test before entry.

Collector J. Innocent Divya said all tourists from Kerala should have undergone a test before visiting the Nilgiris. Those who were coming in without taking the test would be tested at border checkpoints. The measure has been taken in view of the increase in the number of infections in Kerala, and to check the spread of the contagion in the district.

The restriction has discouraged visitors, though it does not bar any tourist from the Nilgiris, said a hotel owner in Udhagamandalam.

โ€œWe have had people calling us up and asking about the new โ€˜restrictionโ€™ and have had many people cancel reservations because they do not want to undergo the test,โ€ he said.

The data from the Horticulture Department has confirmed that there has been a steep reduction in the arrival of tourists since the new measure was announced, with the peak tourist footfall falling steeply, especially at weekends.

Before the announcement, the number of visitors to seven parks and gardens โ€” the Kallar horticulture farm, Kattery Park, Tea Park, Rose Garden, the Government Botanical Garden, Arboretum and Sims Park โ€” averaged out at more than 15,000 a day last weekend. However, on February 27, only 7,738 tourists visited these parks and gardens.

โ€œAt the Government Botanical Garden, 11,482 visitors came last Sunday, but the number came down to 4,343 this Saturday,โ€ said an official of the Horticulture Department.

He said a majority of the tourists visiting the Nilgiris are from Kerala, and it was clear that the new rule had kept them away.

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