The State Tourism Department will conduct a Darshan Yatra as part of promoting pilgrim tourism. Tourism Minister A.P. Anil Kumar said here on Friday that the yatra beginning December 1 would be linked to the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival.

The yatra will be arranged in three packages lasting two days.

From State capital

The first tour will begin from Thiruvananthapuram and return after covering places such as Kovalam, Tiruvallam, Attukal, Padmanabhaswamy temple, Veli, and Neyyar dam.

Another group will begin from Kochi and cover the Ernakulathappan temple, Kaladi, Thripunithura, Athirampuzha, Guruvayur, and Kadampuzha. The tour will return to Kochi.

The third group will start from Angamali and cover Kanniyur, Bharananganam, Malayattur, Pala, and Valiyapalli. This group will conclude its journey in Kochi, said Mr. Anil Kumar.

Addressing a meet-the-press at the Malappuram Press Club, the Minister said that the Tourism Department would consider pilgrim tour packages connecting Kalpathi, Nenmara, Parambikulam, and Attappady and also to Wayanad.

He said the State had great potential for pilgrim tourism. The State, he said, was giving shape to several projects for the development of Kovalam. “We will implement a Rs.10-crore drinking water project at Kovalam,” he said.

The government, he said, would encourage responsible tourism in the State. “For 25 years, the State has been viewing tourism as an industry. We need to bring in better projects to attract tourists, especially in the wake of other States vying to attract tourists,” the Minister said.

He said 85 lakh domestic tourists visited the State in 2010 and the number of foreigners was seven lakh.

Mr. Anil Kumar said Malabar had excellent potential for tourism development, particularly destinations such as Bekel Fort, Wayanad, and Kannur beaches. He said a light-and-sound show project would begin at Kannur fort to attract domestic tourists. He said the development work of the Muzhuppilangad beach would be taken up soon.

Responding to a question about Government Chief Whip P.C. George's statement, the Minister said the former Power Minister A.K. Balan belonged to the Scheduled Caste community.