The floods of August 2018 affected tourism in Kerala substantially, including the homestay sector. However, thanks to the Kochi Muziris Biennale which began in December 2018, the sector has gotten a much needed leg up and is making a comeback. The increased tourist footfall in Kochi this Biennale season - which lasts up till March - has been reviving homestays in the city as well.
There are about 250 homestays in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry areas. With the venues of Kochi Muziris Biennale being in the same region, the homestay sector here has been able to emerge from losses incurred after the floods.
According to Sivadhathan MP, director of Kerala Homestay and Tourism Society (HATS), there is a 35% increase in business for the homestays in the region since August 2018. â€śAfter the flood, there was almost zero business. Though this region was not affected in the floods, tourists had inhibitions about coming here. Awareness campaigns hadnâ€™t had much impact. But with Biennale starting last December, we saw a steady rise in tourists and business,â€ť Sivadhathan told TNM.
For the tourism industry in Kochi, September to February has always been a good season. However, things were bleak last year even before the floods, as there was apprehension due to the Nipah outbreak. â€śTourists stayed away from Kerala last year due to health concerns too. When those fears started to settle down, the flood struck,â€ť said Shyam, a homestay owner in Kochi.
In a bid to attract foreign tourists, the Homestay Association even offered up to 45% reduction in tariffs. But despite discounts, the footfall was slim till November last year. However, things are looking up now, and HATS said that the Kerala government allotting funds for a permanent venue for the Biennale will be a boost to them as well.
That being said, the sector is apprehensive that demand will drop after this month as the Biennale ends this Friday. â€śWith summer reaching peak, and artists and Biennale tourists returning, there will be a void for the tourism sector here,â€ť said Sivadhathan.
The homestay owners hope that things will start looking up again during the monsoon season â€“ June to July. And while itâ€™s not the peak tourist season, Shyam and Sivadhathan said that a section of vacationers like visiting Kochi during this time.