Tourist guides on tenterhooks as second wave retards travel sector

The second wave of pandemic sweeping across the country has put paid to the fate of tourist guides who were on the verge of recovery after last year’s crippling blow dealt by COVID-19 to the tourism industry.

With the daily new cases having breached the 2 lakh mark, its cascading affect has begun to impact the travel sector once again.

Tourist guides, whose livelihood is entirely dependent on the fee paid by a discerning visitor to learn more about the place of interest and monument, are overcome by a sense of despair as the tourist footfall is on the decline.

Devaraj, a guide at the historic Keshava temple at Somanathpur temple in Mysuru district, said there were hardly 30 visitors during weekdays since the last few days and it is down from about 100 visitors per day which was the norm till a few days ago. During weekends the monument would receive around 200 visitors of whom about a handful would prefer the services of a guide. But that number is again falling due to the second wave of the COVID-19, he said.

“There are 8 guides at Somanathpur and we have formed two batches of 4 guides each and work on alternate days. We pool our earnings and share it amongst ourselves so that nobody goes hungry’’, said Mr. Devaraj.

There is a similar arrangement among the guides at Belur Chennakeshava temple. There are 24 guides who have formed two batches of 12 guides each and pool their earnings.

“The scenario was improving but with the daily cases breaching the 2 lakh mark, we are not optimistic and the future appears grim again’’, said B.N. Satyanarayana Gupta, a senior guide at Belur.

He said after the first wave there was a recovery with domestic tourists providing the traction. But it back to square one now as the footfall is on a decline. At the Mysuru palace the daily records also show a perceptible decline. About 3,500 t0 4,000 tourists had visited the palace daily till the first week of April. But it is around 1,100 to 1,800 since April 5.

The fear of the pandemic has also brought about a change in the attitude of many tourists who have begun to avoid engaging guides. This stems from the belief that guides are exposed to many tourists and hence could be potential carriers of the virus.

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