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Tag Will Turn Sites Into Tourism Hotspots
June 16, 2011
Tag Will Turn Sites Into Tourism Hotspots


16 June 2011

Manu Aiyappa, BANGALORE:

On an average, roughly 10 lakh tourists and trekkers annually visit prime spots in the Western Ghats range in Karnataka, starting from Dandeli in Uttara Kannada district to the distant Bhagamandala in Kodagu, bordering Kerala.

The inflow of such visitors will easily go up three-fold if the proposed Unesco World Heritage tag is bestowed on 10 sites, believe some experts in the tourism industry. This is largely to do with the preference of foreign tourists, who prominently visit places recognized by Unesco.

"It has been true in the case of Hampi. For long, it had been a secret place, in the kind of itinerary shared by seasoned backpackers. Not anymore. The world heritage tag worked like magic and visitors to the place increased 10-fold compared to the early 1990s,'' said K N Gangaraju of the tourism department, arguing that this new status for the Ghats would make it a popular destination for tourists from home and across the world.

This will not only increase tourism revenue manifold, but also boost the economies of the people in Malnad region. Upset with the government's decision to reject the special tag, Prof S S Patil of Kannada University, Hampi, said: "The government has to understand that the World Heritage honour is a hard-won and invaluable acknowledgement of the history and culture of a country. And the beautiful Western Ghats deserve it. It brings an honour that perhaps cannot be measured in terms of money, despite the revenue it generates from tourism and related industries.''

What is worrying the government is the funds, according to officials, as they feel it may involve huge investment on the conservation and upkeep of the proposed sites. Also, the government may have to shelve several projects, particularly power projects, as they may need special permission to take up such activities.

Things will only get tougher for chief minister B S Yeddyurappa and ruling BJP president K S Eshwarappa, as they both hail from Shimoga - which lies in the Western Ghats region - if the government has to displace people with proper compensation and rehabilitation in case of any objection raised by Unesco after offering the special tag, tourism officials said.

Local tourists may also have to bear the brunt as the government may eventually raise money by imposing entrance fees and commercialize the upkeep of the sites as in the case of Hampi.