Assam, Dec 10: As a silver lining to the COVID pandemic-hit tourism sector, the UNESCO world heritage site, Assam’s Kaziranga National Park (KNP), has received more domestic tourists than normal in three months this tourist season beginning from October 1.
Nearly 78,000 domestic tourists thronged the park this season, the Coronavirus scare drastically reduced the overseas tourist flow with just 250 choosing to visit the park during this period. Nevertheless, KNP director P Sivkumar termed it as a big leap in the time of the pandemic. Despite the Omicron scare, the state health department informed that it will encourage more tourists to visit the state.
Even though the Omicron scare may spoil the travel plans of tourists from several European countries where experts fear the variant could become dominant in the months to come, state health officials felt that tourists from US and Canada, which are not tagged as ‘at risk’ by India, may still visit the state.
“It’s obvious that due to the suspension of international flights, the number of foreign arrivals may go down. But the domestic flow is more than normal. Since October 1 the arrival of 78,000 tourists in Kaziranga is very encouraging. The domestic passenger flow is more than what we had targeted,” Sivkumar said media.
He informed that KNP has collected around Rs 1.85 crore this season from tourists.
He said in pre-COVID season, around 11,000 foreign tourists would visit KNP, but due to Covid, last year only 500 overseas tourists visited the park.
“Until international flights to India are regularised, we cannot expect the situation to improve. So we are mainly focusing on domestic tourists now,” Sivkumar said.
In the last season, tourists mostly from the northeast came to Kaziranga. This year, however, the KNP director informed that tourists are arriving from almost all the states. On average, KNP authorities handle between 1.5 lakh to 1.75 lakh tourists in a season. “The main season for tourists in Kaziranga is December and January. So we are very hopeful of more tourist arrival in the next few weeks,” he added.
Managing director of Assam Tourism Development Corporation, Prasanta Pratim Kathkatia, said, “The income from our tourist lodges is quite satisfactory. We started from zero and from one tourist lodge in Kaziranga we have set a target of earning Rs 20 lakhs in December,” he said.
Assam National Health Mission director Dr Lakshmanan S urged tourists to get vaccinated with both the doses of Covid-19 vaccine before entering the state. “Fully vaccinated domestic travellers need not undergo tests. They can visit any place they want,” he said.
He added that all foreign tourists would be subjected to the same SOP irrespective of the countries they are coming from. “For us, anyone from a foreign country is an international passenger. So the protocols issued in view of the Omicron threat will be the same,” he said.