S Abdul Kani Raja, secretary, Kodaikanal Hotel and Resort Owners Association, who took part in the protest, said the economy of Kodaikanal is largely driven by tourism. Much to the agony, the closure comes at a time when tourism in the hill town is at its peak. The stakeholders with no alternative and solely relied on tourism in this peak summer season of April and May, experienced tough times since 2019, when most of the hotels and resorts were locked and sealed by the Kodaikanal municipal authorities citing that the buildings were unauthorised for commercial use and also for deviating from approved building plans.
The upheaval dried up tourism as hotels remained locked for months together. Even during 2018, when Cyclone Gaja destroyed Kodaikanal in November and its aftermath weighed heavily on tourism and related service industries. Adding to their woes, COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 had left stakeholders relying on tourism and its supporting industries agonizing over the closure of tourism spots in this hill town.
“Now, this year too, we are destined to face a similar lockdown situation. But, we could hardly endure further lockdown in Kodaikanal. With so many lives and livelihoods at stake, the government considering the legitimate concerns of local people, should not restrict tourists from visiting various sites in Kodaikanal,” Raja said.
Further, he said if the demands were not met, the local people would go on indefinite protest.
SNS Raja Mohammed, president, Kodaikanal Chamber of Commerce, said apart from traders, over 30,000 workers are dependent on tourism. Kodaikanal Revenue Divisional Officer S Sivakumar said their representations were forwarded to the government.