Prince of Wales, his wife, and a 28-member entourage scheduled to stay at Kumarakom.
High-profile visits are not new to this quaint village on the shores Vembanad Lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes in south India. Villagers are used to bumping into celebrities on roads, in toddy shops, or on canoes sailing into the backwaters.
Yet, this time it is different. The guests are royalty. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are expected to arrive here on Tuesday for a three-day stint.
“We do not know whether we will be able to get a glimpse of the royal couple, but their visit is sure to give the tourism industry, the mainstay of the people here, a boost,” said Purushothaman, a farmer.
It was one such visit that catapulted the village into global limelight, he said, referring to the visit of former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee who spent a week here in December 2000.
District Collector Ajit Kumar said the Prince and Duchess, along with their 28-member entourage, would arrive by 5.30 p.m. on November 12 from Kochi by road. They would stay here on November 13 and leave by 11 a.m. on November 14 to Colombo where the Price of Wales would participate in the Commonwealth heads of Government Meet (CHOGM).
The Prince and his entourage would be staying at Kumarakom Lake Resort. The authorities already had three rounds of meetings to take stock of the arrangements for the visit, he said.
“The security aspect has been taken care of by the police. A police office will be opened within the hotel,” he added.
Though a journey through the lake on a houseboat had not been scheduled, the boats would be kept ready in case the Prince wanted to go on a boat ride.
A team of divers from the Navy would also be kept ready. Alternative accommodation too had been arranged for the visitors.
The high point of the visit would be the 65th birthday celebrations of the Prince on November 14 before his journey to Colombo.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy would participate in the function.
“The royal visit is different from other high-profile visits to Kumarakom, as it will help re-launch the destination says,” says Jiju Jose, secretary, District Tourism Promotion Council.
It was only last week that Kerala was selected for the Lonely Planet Award for the Best Family Destination at the World Travel Mart. Other destinations on the list are New York City, Denmark, Prague, Iceland, Italy, and Hawaii. The endorsement by the royal couple would only enhance the status.
A slice of history
The village had entered the tourism map as a bird sanctuary and a centre of migratory birds in the 1980s. Later, it became popular for its houseboats. Then it was bestowed the ‘monsoon destination’ tag. The latest label is the ‘best leisure spot.’ The Vajpayee visit had brought a number of political leaders to the village. Now it could be the turn of jet-setters.