Thodupuzha: The authorities had expected a big rush of visitors to Munnar in the Neelakurinji blooming season, but they have been disappointed with the drastic fall in the number of tourists.
While the exceptionally rare flowers, which carpet the hills only once in 12 years, were expected to draw well over 8 lakh visitors, the arrivals have been limited to just about a lakh so far even as hardly 10 days are left for the flowers to wither.
The forest department says the season will end in less than two weeks and another season has to wait until 2030.
The previous Neelakurinji season in 2006 brought five lakh visitors. The flood and unstable weather conditions apparently upset the tourist season this year. The visitors seemed inhibited by a hard journey, as the roads and bridges on the way to Munnar were wrecked in the flood.
Visitors were also put off by the torrential rain that lashed the state several times after the flood, as also the alert messages being issued by the government. A 12-day ban on tourists to Idukki district and the shuttering of tourist hubs had a negative impact.
Munnar, a prominent south Indian tourist destination, had hoped to revive after the lull in tourism activities during and immediately after the August floods and landslides, with the arrival of large number of visitors eager to see Neelakurinjis in bloom.
The Kurinji season lasts for nearly three months, from early August to October end. This year the blooming itself was delayed until after September second week. Even the mass blooming delight was limited in many places as the flowers decayed in heavy rains. Rajamala and Kolukkumala saw the most number of Kurinjis this year.
The government had spent Rs 2 crore to prepare for the season with special attention given to raising and improving infrastructure.
Munnar and surrounding areas have a total of over 6,000 hotel rooms. As most of them remained unoccupied even in the Kurinji season, the government lost significant revenue from taxes. Private citizens who invested heavily to take hotels and resorts on lease also suffered huge losses.
Rajamala was to admit 4,000 people daily, out of which 75% tickets were sold online. However, refunds had to be made as many people cancelled trips. The forest department eventually lost much revenue. It had been a season of losses for the tourism department also.