A calendar of events drawn up based on major festivals

Taking a cue from the response to the famous dance festival at Mamallapuram, the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) has chalked out a plan to organise cultural festivals at important tourist destinations. A calendar of events has been drawn up, taking into consideration the time of arrival of foreign tourists at these spots. The programmes include, classical and light music dances and thematic presentations. Last year, the State received 33.08 lakh foreign tourists against 28.04 lakh in the previous year and ranks number two in the country. The number of domestic arrivals during the same period was 13.68 crore against 10.30 crore the previous year. Festivals are already being organised at Udhagamandalam, Yercaud, Yelagiri and Kodaikanal.

Talking to The Hindu, a tourism official said: “We have prepared the programme based on major festivals. The celebration in lesser known destinations will be for a few days and in other places for two to three weeks. Popular destinations will celebrate these events for a month.”

Currently, the stay of foreign tourists in the State ranges from eight to ten days. They invariably stay for a day or two at each place such as Chennai, Kancheepuram, Mamallapuram, Puducherry, Tranquebar, Tiruchi, Kumbakonam, Darasuram, Thanjavur, Tiruchi, Madurai, Kodaikanal and Kanyakumari. Those visiting Udhagamandalam tend to skip Kodaikanal and vice versa. By conducting month-long festivals, the Tourism Department wants foreign visitors to experience other destinations as well.

Another official said that with the tourist season in major hill stations being extended till June end and most colleges reopening only in July, the festival at these locations are well-patronised. “We are not conducting the festivals with just foreign visitors but also for residents of neighbouring towns. Programme schedules have been circulated in adjacent localities,” he said.

The calendar of events chalked out by TTDC will run throughout the year. The festivals will be held at Mamallapuram in December-January; Thanjavur (January); Kanyakumari (February-March); Udhagamandalam (May); Kodaikanal (May-June); Tranquebar (August-September) and Rameswaram (September-October). The festival at Mamallapuram is being held continuously for over 15 years during December-January. A shift in the programme's venue from Arjuna's Penance to the Shore Temple and making the entry free in 2012 resulted in 50 per cent increase in the number of visitors.

Temple tours

Keeping in mind that a major portion of domestic tourists opt for visits to temples, the TTDC has lined up cultural and heritage tours to several temples. Initially, a temple tour package has been specifically designed for those praying to ease hurdles in their marriages. Another one has been designed to enable pilgrims to have darshan of Lord Muruga's ‘Arupadai Veedu'.

Of late, TTDC has been witnessing a gradual increase in its daily package tour to Tirumala-Tirupathi as pilgrims are assured of darshan during week days in spite of heavy rush for the last few days. The departure time of its coaches has been advanced by an hour to 5.10 a.m. so that devotees can return quickly.

In a rare gesture, TTDC on Saturday refunded ticket fare to 23 pilgrims as they failed to get ‘Darshan' of Lord Venkateswara due to heavy rush. Though they were assured of ‘Darshan' on Sunday morning, some of them were reluctant to extent their stay, hence the amount was refunded.