Mumbai terror, economic crises bad news for Kerala tourism

November 30th, 2008 - 4:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 30 (IANS) Members of the Kerala tourism industry, already reeling under the impact of the global economic crisis, fear their losses will mount as foreign tourists are likely to stay away in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Mumbai.”First the economic recession led to a fall in reservations. Now, following the terror attacks in Mumbai, we have been getting e-mails from people who want to cancel their bookings,” hotelier Tomy Pulikattil told IANS.

Pulikattil owns a dozen houseboats in Alappuzha, which is known as the Venice of the East. On an average, the nearly 500 houseboats in the area have daily earnings of Rs.2.5 million during the peak season in December and January. However, tour operators and hoteliers fear that the famous Kerala backwaters will be deserted this year.

“By November-end most houseboats are full and very few are seen anchored. But hardly any tourists are here this time. The situation will only get worse due to the terror attacks,” said Pulikattil.

At least 183 people, including 22 foreign nationals, were killed in the terror attacks in India’s financial capital. The tragedy led several countries to issues travel advisories, asking people to either cancel their trips to India or return home.

“I was to lead a party of 14 travel agents that was to arrive here Monday from Britain. But they have cancelled their trip,” said tour guide Koshy John.

“The Britain-based Explore tour company had organised the trip for agents so that they could plan things for the next tourist season. But I doubt we will see many tourists here this time during the usually busy season,” he added.

Over the years, Kerala’s tourism industry has shown a consistent growth in both arrivals and revenue generation.

In 2007, foreign tourist arrivals in Kerala grew by 20.37 percent over 2006 to cross 515,000. Domestic tourist arrivals grew by 5.92 percent to cross 6.6 million. The total revenue from tourism grew by 25.28 percent to touch Rs.114 billion.

However, M.R. Narayanan, secretary of the Confederation of Tourism Industry in Kerala, feels the trend could change in 2008 with the industry incurring heavy loses.

“Cancellations are on the rise. The only glimmer of hope is that clients who have been here previously come here for ayurvedic treatment want to visit Kerala again,” he said.

Representatives of the tourism industry are scheduled to meet State Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan Thursday to inform him of their problems. They are expecting the minister to announce a few sops.

“We have requested the government to give us a loan from the 15 percent luxury tax that is collected from us. This will help the industry to maintain a positive cash flow,” said Narayanan.

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