Special Correspondent

Budget proposes special package with emphasis on road development.

Thiruvananthapuram: Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac on Friday said that he proposed to promote a special package for improving tourism infrastructure to capitalise on the growth expected two years from now, despite the current setback in the sector.

As part of this package, the Minister proposed to develop 27 tourist centres in the Malabar region focusing mainly on road development.

For roads in this region, sanction would be given this year, with an allotment of Rs.52 crore.

Local hand

A new business model is envisaged for tourism development at these places. Instead of government acquiring land and handing it over to tourism developers, local land owners would be encouraged to use land as their equity and register special companies.

Sops announced

Since the tourism industry has been forced to reduce prices of its tour packages due to the fall in foreign tourist arrivals, the Minister said all registered tourist resorts and house boats will be given deferment of half the tax for one year. The Minister earmarked Rs.10 crore for infrastructure development in Kannur airport. Dr. Isaac estimated that Rs.259 crore would be required to upgrade the connecting roads to the airport. These roads would be developed as joint ventures. For land acquisition and related purposes, Rs. 25 crore would be provided.

The other provisions included Rs.3 crore for renovation of four roads to Sivagiri, Rs.20 crore for long-term maintenance contracts of roads in Sabarimala, Rs.10 crore for developing Munnar-Idukki road, Varkala-Paravoor road and Kottayam-Kumarakom road, Rs.15 crore for upgrading the Alappuzha-Thanneermukkom-Kottayam road into a State Highway and Rs.10 crore for linking historic places like Kodungallur, Chennamangalam, Gothuruthu, Paravur, Pallipuram and Azhikode. The Minister said that Rs.61 crore had been set apart for tourism under the tsunami rehabilitation scheme.

The Minister said that local self-governments had an important role to play in tourism development.

A master plan, Sapariya, would be prepared on the basis of potential locations identified by these institutions. It would be submitted to the Centre for assistance under the rural tourism stream.