Stakeholders hope for new initiatives to promote lesser-known but attractive locales
Despite the presence of iconic tourist locations such as the majestic Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, grand Chettinad palaces and famous waterfalls, the tourism potential of the southern districts of Tamil Nadu is far from fully harnessed, opine stakeholders in the industry.
With a new Government having taken charge, they have expressed hope that fresh initiatives would be launched to fully harness the tourism potential of the region.
Apart from these popular spots, the south possesses dozens of places such as scenic beaches and picturesque waterfalls which have not been popularised as a tourist destination. As a result, tourism in south Tamil Nadu has come to acquire a temple-centric reputation. In some places, even the major tourist attractions lack adequate infrastructure.
While Tamil Nadu saw around 30 lakh foreign tourists during 2010, only 35,000 of them visited Madurai. As the city is the gateway to the southern districts, the numbers of foreign tourists further down south are bound to decline even further.
Also, many tourists head to Kerala after an over-night stay at Madurai rather than head to southern districts.
While the Meenakshi Temple and King Tirumalai Naick Palace (Mahal) garner the lion's share of tourists coming to Madurai, there is also a rich collection of Jain vestiges, awareness of which is very limited. Many are in remote locations such as Arittappati a hillock located around 35 km east of Madurai.
This site features a seventh century rock-cut Siva temple that lays nestled between the hills and also has pond. While such locations could attract thousands of tourists, foreign and domestic, very few tourist and travel operators know of this place.
Waterfalls and beaches
While the Courtallam waterfalls of Tirunelveli district hogs the limelight in the area, the waterfalls at Ambasamudram and Papanasam also have the potential to become major tourist spots but lack adequate infrastructure at present.
With little investment and a major publicity campaign, these places could boost the inflow of tourists to the region.
Despite possessing a beautiful beach, Uvari, a coastal hamlet in Tirunelveli district, remains very much off the radar of tourist operators.
With a little boost to infrastructure and an awareness campaign among tourist operators, this location, situated ideally on the Ramaeswaram-Kanyakumari route, could become a stop-over for tourists.
While the beach in Rameswaram is a major tourist site, the ruins in Dhanushkodi, which could be accessed only on four-wheelers, also has the potential for attracting tourists.
Chettinad palaces in and around Karaikudi have fascinated many but, tourism stakeholders say, only a few of these majestic places are thrown open for tourists.
If the local community could be persuaded and made to understand the benefits of tourism, more palaces could be opened for viewing. This could increase the tourist flow.
While the Srivilliputhur Andal Temple remains a major site in Virudhunagar district, the Grizzled Squirrel Wild Life Sanctuary, located a mere 45 km from the town, remains a lesser-known location. This region of the Western Ghats is one of the places where the Grizzled Squirrel, an endangered species, is found.