The happiness of tourism officials in Chittoor district, having returned to their full potential after the loosening of lockdown norms in several tourist locations in the district such as Horsely Hills, has been short-lived since the first week and resulted in a sudden drop in visitor numbers in April the surge in COVID-19 cases.
Horsley Hills near Madanapalle, a quaint hill station that attracts large numbers of Chennai and Bengaluru tourists, has been closed after the lockdown in March 2020. However, the potential of the mountain station normalized again in September last year. Officials said through February this year the destination was full of tourists on the weekends. Since April, the occupancy rate of the apartment blocks has shown a downward spiral despite the rise in the mercury content.
The strong spread of the virus in Chennai and Bengaluru is seen as the main reason for the arrival of tourists.
The decision by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) to suspend the Sarva Darshan facility (free darshan mode) for pilgrims also had an impact. The historic Chandragiri Fort and Gudimalla Temple in the district, administered by the Archaeological Survey of India, will also remain closed until May 15.
After excessive rainfall across Chittoor district between July and December last year, some of the falls like Talakona, Kailasanatha Kona, Sadasiva Kona, Ubbalamadugu and Kaigal have been busy picnic spots since September. However, the second wave of the virus has since left several of them. While the Talakona Falls attract the nature lovers from Karnataka, the Ubbalamadugu and Kailasanatha Kona generally receive large numbers of visitors from Chennai and cities bordering Tamil Nadu.
Tourism manager (Chittoor) DV Chandramouli Reddy told The Hindu that the effects of the second wave of COVID-19 were clearly felt on the tourism sector in the district. “From April the potential suddenly drops and this is clearly due to the fear factor among tourists. Even so, we continuously monitor the COVID logs at all of our locations, ”he said.
Jaya Prasada Rao, Forest Range Officer (Satyavedu), said the number of Tamil Nadu visitors to the Ubbamalamadugu Falls (also known as the Tada Falls) has decreased since the COVID resurgence.