Connectivity, Hospitality, Activity — C T Ravi On How Karnataka Plans To Protect And Then Revive Tourism In The State
The tourism industry, like most others, has been hit hard by the virus. But unlike other sectors, its recovery may take longer than expected.
Swarajya speaks to Karnataka Tourism Minister C T Ravi, for the second time, to ascertain the current ground realities and the plans ahead.
When we met the Minister for Tourism and Culture, C T Ravi, last year as soon as he took charge of the portfolio, he had mighty plans to change the way the world experiences tourism in Karnataka. Many a plan was being put in place, but the pandemic brought everything to a halt.
The summers that see lakhs of people travel to this state, which is rightly said to be ‘One State Many Worlds’, has all its popular tourist venues lying dormant even after the lockdown was relaxed.
Be it the safaris offered in various sanctuaries or the Mysore palace that sees thousands of visitors each day — it's all down and distressed.
The tourism sector is the one massively hit and the one that will take much longer than others to revitalise.
But the efforts have begun, says Ravi.
He, along with Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, recently flagged off Luxecamper, a caravan tourism effort that is offered by a private player but has now, in association with the Karnataka government, on offer a cautious and personalised way of travel for tourists, to popular destinations in the state.
“It’s a private effort but we are facilitating it and they will pay us for using our infrastructure,” explains Ravi.
This facilitation and provision of infrastructure will also be part of the new tourism policy, he explains. “From safety, and stay, to security, sanitation and other such facilitating infrastructure, we are contemplating its inclusion in the policy,” he adds.
The tourism policy will be released by mid-July assures the Minister.
“We have had many sittings, virtual meetings, and the draft has been sent. It is being scrutinised. But given the times we are in at present, we will have to accommodate certain changes, and create a suitable five-year-plan,” says Ravi.
Ravi, who is also in charge of Youth Affairs, says the state is contemplating ways to engage sportspersons who have been unable to practice owing to the pandemic.
“Performance will take a beating otherwise, as it’s been four months already. We have written to the Centre and are awaiting responses, but we hope to soon facilitate at least sportspersons and their trainers to undertake practice with all safety measures in place,” says Ravi, as he talks of various other thoughts pertaining to culture, Kannada and tourism that the state has been contemplating on, in an interview to Swarajya.
Here are excerpts:
1. ‘Kannada Kali’, a Twitter effort you started, to teach Kannada, seems to have found many takers. What was it that led to this effort and what do you make of the responses?
The response has been very good. A lot of people are tweeting back.
This is an attempt to create curiosity and induce people to learn. For those who wish to take it further, there are a lot of apps that are available.
Learning Kannada can be a lifetime project but for now, we have taken it up as a 100-day project where we will post one or two posts a day.
This will help me reach to at least those connected to me on Twitter to have two lessons a day and learn conversational Kannada easily.
2. Tourism is the most affected in the times of corona and is also a high revenue sector — what are the measures being taken to revive this sector?
First, survival, then, revival.
People are scared to travel. When there is fear, they won’t travel. So, we are now first launching the #SeeYourNative, #LoveYourNative tourism.
People in towns like Mangaluru may not have seen places around Mangaluru or Chikamagaluru, so we have come up with this concept called #SeeYourNative. This is to slowly nudge people to travel.
After that, we will start #NoduBaaNammoora, where we will look at inviting people for inter-district travel — through media and video medium we will invite people to travel within the state.
As far as inter-state travel is concerned, we need to gradually promote Karnataka as a safe destination in a way that instills faith among people.
So, for the three-four months after opening of lockdown, we will concentrate on local tourism, and post that, look at inter-district travel.
By that time, things should hopefully become normal.
3. Will local tourism really work? Since not many people would want to go see their own town.
We are planning and encouraging people to conduct small activities like outside dining and the like at tourist spots. And the current plans are basically for survival as the sector is reeling under immense pressure due to the pandemic.
4. How long before you think people can start accepting this as a way of life and come back to travel locally since the footfall at the Mysore palace and the temples too has been very low?
International as well as interstate connectivity is not completely as it was before. There are rules and conditions, along with fears, while new cases are being reported every day.
Even if there is a single case in an entire district, say Chikamagaluru, people who may have booked a place of stay, will cancel immediately.
That being said, the media projection of the pandemic scares people. And so, tourism will not take off immediately.
It would take at least one year for things to turn normal again.
5. What bearing does this pandemic and the lockdown have on the cultural arena and how can Karnataka address this sudden change in a whole lot of factors — be it performance spaces, events, festivals, or the transmission of the arts and the like? Theatre, music, dance — everything has been affected.
Be it sports, culture or tourism, these are activities that people indulge in times of contentment and ease. When people are all at ease, and life around is fine, all these happen in all vibrancy.
But not now.
Not in these times of a pandemic.
May be, it would be possible to bring together local artists at select venues and host some events — we are thinking on these lines.
These can be promoted through media and virtual platforms in a bid to help local and small artists. Singer Vijay Prakash has also suggested some plans that we could look at — we are working in this direction.
6. What efforts are being done to sanitise heritage sites? Also, the issue of the unorganised sector in the tourism industry, the guides and the like — how would this issue be addressed?
I have spoken to the Chief Minister and also given a letter seeking some relief for those in the tourism sector affected by the lockdown.
In the way that packages were announced for different sectors of the economy and given a compensation, I had and will once again appeal to the CM to consider their case. We have given them food kits, but will try and emphasise on their case.
As far as sanitisation is concerned, like at the temples that have opened, all sanitation measures are being taken care of.
Passages and places that see frequent movement of people are to be continuously sanitised.
Even for washrooms at these public places, we have insisted on regular cleaning and sanitisation.
Strict instructions have been put in place for all our tourist lodges and the like, such as our KSTDC hotels among others.
All hoteliers, too, have been asked to follow strict sanitation rules, as dictated by the ICMR, keeping in mind the special bulletins issued by the state task force.
7. Isn't this a good time to re-plan and re-strategise the way tourism happens — by generating more employment locally around these sites and encouraging more entrepreneurship under the ‘Vocal for Local’ scheme?
We are working on it. We are trying to look at different approaches to tourism, by also making scope for, say, things like Banjara tourism.
Plans for public-private partnerships are on, such as in activity-based tourism.
Connectivity, hospitality, activity — these are three things around which tourism revolves.
So, efforts are being made to take all three into consideration — to ensure an experience for a tourist, not just a visual delight.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is, all in all, a reader-subscription-backed business model and in order to make sure we build a media platform with only the best interests of India at heart, we need your backing.
And in challenging times like this, we need your support now more than ever—to continue bringing you stories that are often shrugged off.
For us to invest in quality reporting and continue bringing you the right stories, it takes a lot of time and money.
Partner with us, be a patron or a subscriber. We need your support, throughout.