| Not God’s own country'
Thiruvananthapuram, Oct. 10: To travel or not to travel — that’s the dilemma plaguing tourists to Kerala these days.
With chikungunya holding sway in the tourism hot spot in a big way and medical associations coming up with conflicting claims on the status of the disease, unhappy days appear to be looming on the travel season ahead.
Confused domestic tourists have already begun putting off their trips, citing reports of the havoc chikungunya is apparently wreaking in Kerala. Jittery tour operators say if this state of affairs continues for long, tourism will be badly hit.
“Domestic clients have started postponing their journey, citing the spread of the fever. If the fever is not contained, it is going to hit the industry badly,” E.M. Najeeb, Indian Association of Tour Operators’ chairman, said.
Kerala relies heavily on tourism and is becoming a favourite destination with all manner of tourists, international and domestic, including people from the east. It is targeting an additional Rs 1,500 crore from tourism this year, up from Rs 7,073 crore last year.
But with the chikungunya scare raging just ahead of the start of the tourism season, things have begun to look bleak. And medical research associations, or the Kerala chief minister for that matter, are not helping.
On Sunday, the Indian Medical Association had come up with what looked like a life-saver for tourism: that chikungunya was not lethal in Kerala and all reports to that effect were wrong.
The IMA report said that only 33 of nearly 40,000 people with viral infections had chikungunya and that none of the 32 deaths at the Cherthala government hospital and the Alappuzha medical college hospital was from it.
Ironically, it had been chief minister V.S. Achutanandan who fuelled the scare, claiming the disease had killed about a 100 people. He even refused to take Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss’s word that chikungunya had not claimed any life in the nine states affected.
But the IMA silver lining proved short-lived — on Monday, the Indian Council for Medical Research said a few cases might have turned fatal and they could be attributed to chikungunya.
M.K. Ganguly would, however, not commit anything. He said in Delhi that the final report on the disease prevalence and deaths would be available only in a week and that the media should wait till then before blowing anything out of proportion.
With the medical associations swinging different ways and the chief minister a third, an assurance by Kerala tourism director B. Suman that the situation is under control has found no takers.
Neither the local people nor potential tourists are willing to take anyone’s word.