Kerala tourism smiles after National Geographic rating

November 16th, 2009 - 2:16 pm ICT by IANS  

National Geographic By Sanu George
Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 16 (IANS) Kerala tourism needed some good news after being hit by global recession and the Thekkady boat tragedy in September. It has got the pep with the National Geographic rating its backwaters as the world’s 23rd best destination, giving the sector a reason to smile.

State Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the rating by National Geographic Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations has come as a shot in the arm for the industry.

“We will make this new certification as our USP. We have now finished a series of road shows in Europe and our next round of road shows in Italy, France, and Australia will take place. We will make this certification our main campaign point,” Balakrishnan told IANS.

Over the years Kerala’s tourism industry has recorded consistent growth. In 2008 there was 14.84 percent growth in tourism revenue while tourist arrivals grew 14.41 percent over 2007.

But the tourism sector in Alappuzha, known for its houseboat tourism and which earned this certification for the industry, wants urgent promotional steps by the government.

Tomy Pulikattil, who owns a fleet of houseboats including those that can accommodate more than 100 people, said after the Thekkady tragedy the tourism season appears to have dried up. At least 45 people had died when a boat overturned in Thekkady.

“The government has to launch a series of promotional activities because the fear of Thekkady still lingers in north India. The truth is that never has a tragedy occurred in the houseboat industry. A houseboat can bear a load from 30 tonnes to a maximum of 120 tonnes and the design of a houseboat is totally different to that of a motor boat,” said Pulikattil, who recently conducted an inclination test by a marine expert on all his boats.

Kerala’s peak tourism season begins mid-November and extends till March.

Tour operators bring tourists from across the world during the peak season to Kerala. This year, however, there was the fear that the charter flights may not arrive.

Tourism Minister Balakrishnan said: “Initially we were told that charter flights might not arrive, but now we are told that our campaigns did help and a few of them are coming. This has been one saving grace for us. Another sector this season which is expected to do well is cruise tourism.”

Jose Dominic, who heads CGH Earth one of the biggest players in the tourism industry, is hopeful that the National Geographic certification will give his business a boost.

With six premier resorts, Dominic is getting ready for the new season by taking over the marketing and operations of seven luxurious bungalows in the picturesque hill resort of Munnar that are more than a century old and belong to the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company Pvt Ltd (KDHP) group.

“Tourism is one industry where people look for a real experience that is unique and local. Our strategies are always on this line and hence we think differently. This Munnar experiment by us forms part of this and is our way of presenting Munnar,” Dominic said.

(Sanu George can be contacted at

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