In the wake of the Coronavirus scare, top tourist destinations and UNESCO World Heritage sites in Mumbai have witnessed heavy decline in tourism, especially foreigners, industry players said on Wednesday. This comes even as the first two cases of the Coronavirus have been confirmed in Mumbai.
Major attractions like Ajanta and Ellora in Aurangabad, Elephanta caves in Raigad district, and one of the most photographed monuments in the country, the Gateway of India, are seen deserted by the tourists amidst the scare of the virus outbreak.
In comparison to the earlier number of tourists, the city has seen less number of tourists since December.
A co-founder of a tourism company told ANI, "The tourism and hospitality industry is in the doldrums. Smaller tour operators are the worst hit, as also the big ones. The situation does not appear rosy with more COVID-19 cases being detected around the country. We are forced to cancel the entire tour packages with flights, hotels, and sightseeing."
Another travel company owner said that "people are unnecessarily panicking", adding, "While my bookings to Jammu & Kashmir; Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh are largely unaffected, the scenario on international tours is gloomy. Due to ''postponements'', my estimate is more than 75 percent hit is taken by the industry."
"The Ajanta & Ellora Caves are popular among Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains in India, but the domestic inflow has taken a plunge. The Buddhist tourists from China, Japan, Thailand and other Far Eastern countries for whom this circuit holds significance, the inflow has trickled to virtually zero now," added the travel agent.
The general secretary of Maharashtra Tour Operators Association (MTOA) Chetan Dunakhe admitted that the arrivals of foreigners to Mumbai, from where they go to rest of the state and elsewhere in the country, has been severely affected.
"February-March is our peak booking season for the summer tourist rush owing to the school-colleges holidays from mid-April to mid-June. Everyone keeps their plans ''on hold'' till the situation crystallizes," Dunakhe added.
Other places like beach resorts of Ganpatipule Beach of Ratnagiri, Alibaug, Murud-Janjira (Raigad), Palghar, Thane, hill stations such as Matheran (Raigad), Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani (Satara) and others have barely seen 10-15 per cent peak season bookings.