2018 will be remembered as an unlucky year in the annals of Kerala tourism, which is the backbone of the state’s economy.
From the Nipah virus outbreak in May resulting in cancellations galore, strong monsoon in June and the catastrophic floods in August- all have left the tourism industry devastated, battered and bruised. Though there are many challenges ahead, the travel fraternity is optimistic that this is just a temporary setback.
Currently, there are many positive signs for the tourism front in Kerala. The opening of the Cochin International Airport is a heartening factor. The wellness tourism and beach tourism destinations will bounce back soon. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race also will be rescheduled.
Raghu, Director of Alleppey Tourism Development Cooperative Society which operates a fleet of houseboats, says, “There are a total of 1,300 houseboats operating in the backwaters of Kerala, mainly in Alleppey, Kumarakom and Kollam. The houseboat industry employing 25,000 people (directly and indirectly) was paralysed and will soon be in action. We have started taking bookings and will start operating our houseboats from September second week.”
Owners of the inundated waterfront resorts in the backwaters are pre-occupied with putting their properties back to its original shape after monsoon rains and floods ravaged the state.
Wayanad, the most happening destination of Malabar area in north Kerala is limping back to normalcy. “The Ghat roads have been repaired but there is a temporary ban on tourists visiting Chembara peak, Soochipara Waterfalls, Kanthapara Waterfalls and Kuruvadweep. Access to Wayanad, the gateway to Malabar is currently open (except through Coorg). Malabar Tourism which will be the focal theme of the upcoming 10th edition of the Kerala Travel Mart and the opening of the Kannur airport this year will give a boost to tourism in North Kerala,” says Vancheeswaran, President of Wayanad Tourism Association.
Following the floods, Kerala’s tourism industry has formed Kerala Tourism Task Force (KTTF), an independent voluntary body, to support the government and the administration in different districts of the state in relief and rehabilitation work.
28 hospitality associations in the State have identified areas where help is required and consolidated the relief work in those areas in a targeted manner in coordination with district administration. Different sub-committees have been allotted specific responsibilities. The whole industry is participating in rescue, relief and rehabilitation work.
According to EM Najeeb, the vice president of Indian Association of Tour Operators, it is imperative that the people and the government work together to clean up the state and restore it. He has appealed to IATO members to donate generously to the CM Relief Fund.
Munnar, which had to bear the brunt of landslides following the catastrophic floods, was isolated for a week. Currently, the members of Munnar Hoteliers and Restaurants Association, Munnar Destination Makers, Showcase Munnar Association for Responsible Tourism, Homestays Association and the Adventure Tour Operators Association have all joined hands for relief and rehabilitation work in Munnar. They are optimistic that once the damaged roads are repaired, hordes of tourists will make a beeline for Munnar to witness the spectacular blooming of Neelakurinji which will generate revenue for the industry.
The 10th edition of the Kerala Travel Mart, organised by Kerala Travel Mart Society in partnership with Kerala Tourism, slated for the last week of the month will boost the sagging morale of the travel fraternity and mark the revival of tourism in the State.
“This biennial event will offer a spectrum of opportunities to key players in the hospitality sector to forge business linkages and spur the growth of the entire tourism industry. The upcoming mega event will witness the participation of 1200 delegates (domestic and international) from 73 countries. This will be the highest participation from abroad in the history of KTM. We are gearing to receive the guests from India and abroad” says Mathew Philip, CEO, KTM.
If the safety concerns of tourists are addressed, apprehensions dispelled and confidence regained, God’s Own Country will see a surge in footfalls.