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At Ooty, operators take tourists for a ride

With no regulations in place, the private tour operators mislead tourists into visiting places of their commercial interest by skipping some tourist spots.

At Ooty, operators take tourists for a ride

Tourists continue to flock Ooty due to continuous dry spell elsewhere

COIMBATORE: Tourists flocking Ooty, the Queen of Hills have called for cracking down on tourist operators taking them on a misleading trip. With hardly any regulations in place, the private tour operators involved in organising group tours to sight-seeing spots mislead the tourists into visiting places of their commercial interest by skipping some tourist spots.

Private tour operators run one-day group tours mostly in maxi cab vans, where different families of tourists are taken for day-long sightseeing trips. Such trips are preferred by tourists presumably because of the affordable cost.

“On my trip to Mudumalai from Ooty, the tour operator, who also doubled up as a guide accompanying tourists in the vehicle, misled us that Theppakadu elephant camp, one of the popular tourist spots is temporarily out of bounds for tourists,” said R Venkatesan, a tourist from Salem.

Also, the tour operators habitually lure tourists to opt for ‘jeep safari’, in which the visitors are taken on a ride along the buffer zone of the forest area by road, rather than the vehicle safari of the forest department. In the vehicle safari, organised by the forest department, the tourists are taken into the wild, which gives them a better chance for visitors to spot animals.

“Mostly the tourists are unaware of such vehicle safari organised by the forest department. Even if someone inquires, the tour operators reel out some lies like the forest department’s safari have either been stopped or bookings need to be done long before and force tourists to take jeep safari for a hefty amount in connivance with those operators.

Worse they do not even stop at the spot to make bookings for the safari ride of the forest department,” said S Muthuraj, another tourist from Chennai. Tourists complained that tour operators chalk out their own trip plans rather than taking the tourists to popular spots. “The tour operators list out different packages in group tours based on the tourist spots to be visited.

As I availed a packaged group tour to visit local sight-seeing spots in Ooty and Coonoor, the tour operator made long and multiple unnecessary halts in specific commercial outlets selling tea powders and chocolates, but skipped even some prominent spots like Sims Park in Coonoor citing lack of time,” said B Vijayalakshmi, a sexagenarian from Coimbatore.

Most tourists are gullible and fleeced by operators, who promise to offer the best, but end up leaving the visitors with a bad impression on Ooty. With tourism remaining the driving force of the Ooty’s economy, the tourists have called for some mechanism to crack down on such fleecing tour operators.

“The tour operators should be streamlined and a complaint cell should be opened for tourists to raise issues on fleecing. It would be better if the tourism department organised sightseeing trips in different packages depending on the spots to be covered for the convenience of tourists.

Also, the tour operators should be sensitised towards promoting tourism rather than involved in activities that may discourage tourists from making repeated visits,” said tourists.

Tourism Department to bring back package tours

COIMBATORE: For the convenience of tourists, the tourism department has chalked out plans to roll out package tours in the Nilgiris. “Tenders have been issued to choose a franchise for operating tours in the hills.

As the department suffered heavy losses, while operating its own vehicles until a few years ago, it was decided to award the contract to the franchise. Once the tour operator is finalised, there are plans to introduce four packages of one-day tours to varying destinations. We are hopeful of finalising the operator within a month,” said a senior official of the tourism department.

Tourists are hopeful that if such tours are operated by the tourism department, then it would be more trustworthy and enjoyable. “In our tours, everything will be done in a systematic manner as per norms including the list of tourist spots to be covered and halts will be made only in fixed food joints and not anywhere else,” the official added.

Until a few years ago, the tourism department was operating sightseeing tours with a mini-bus but stopped the service due to lack of patronage. Even most of those staying in the TTDC resorts go by their own cars. “An initiative will be taken up on behalf of the department to resume group tours.

One or two vehicles can be operated initially and if there is a good response, then tours can be brought back in a full-fledged manner,” said D Uma Shankar, District Tourism Officer, the Nilgiris.

For tourists to resolve grievances, the tourism department has a team of wardens deployed in major tourism destinations. “Tourism wardens maintain monitoring in Government Botanical Garden (GBG), Ooty Boat House, and Doddabetta to address complaints raised by tourists.

We have also received some complaints from some tour operators concerning the tourists and action has been initiated against the erring persons,” said D Uma Shankar.

Visitors to get taste of rural life in the Nilgiris

COIMBATORE: Tourists to the Nilgiris may soon get to know about the rural life and unique culture of the tribal people in the hill station. For the first time ever in State, the Tamil Nadu Tourism Department (TTDC) has planned to roll out village and farm tourism in the pristine hills. “It will be the first among our experimental projects to tap the potential of rural tourism.

Tourists will be excited to get hands-on experience with the different cultivation techniques adopted by farmers to raise hill crops. Tourists generally evince interest in knowing the local culture and cuisine of people,” said D Uma Shankar, District Tourism Officer, the Nilgiris.

The tourism department has identified Hullada village near Ketti railway station to be among the potential spots for tourism. The guided tour is likely to be both educational and entertaining for the tourists. “As part of the tour, the tourists will be taken to a carrot factory near Katteri dam to watch the different processes including its cleaning by machinery.

Tourists will also be taken on a visit to chocolate and tea factories,” the official added. The TTDC has come out with such a unique proposal as tourists desire to explore deeper without restriction by visiting tourism destinations alone.

V Ashok Kumar
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