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Peak tourism season arrives with bad tidings

S. Anil Radhakrishnan
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The stakeholders of the tourism industry are worried that the recession sweeping across Europe, travel advisories issued by the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand against travelling to India, and several other factors will affect tourist arrivals during the coming peak tourism season in the State.

With just a week to go for the start of the peak season, the tourism trade is worried over the cancellation of 50 per cent of the group bookings, a comparative fall in foreign tourist arrivals, and the decreasing corporate movements from North India.

Though Kerala is a 365-day destination, the tourism trade in the State sets great store by the arrival of tourists from the U.K., France, and Germany during the October-March period. It is now almost confirmed that the chartered flights from the U.K. to Thiruvananthapuram, which used to herald the peak season, will not arrive this year too.

Tourism industry sources say the advisories issued by five countries against travelling to India, citing terror threats, will hit tourism in the State in a big way. The advisories have come at a time when the stakeholders of the burgeoning industry are trying to overcome the problems caused by the economic recession in Europe by tapping the potential of Australia and Scandinavian countries.

In premium properties in Kochi and other places, rooms were sold out for November a couple of months ago. But all of a sudden, the situation changed, with rooms available in plenty as cancellation requests flood the reservation desks.

“The reports reaching us are not at all encouraging for the State. We are anticipating a dip of 25 per cent or more in foreign tourist arrivals alone to the State in the coming months compared with the previous year's,” says E.M. Najeeb, president, Confederation of Tourism Industry, Kerala.

Competition from other States and countries such as the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Singapore and an increase in budgetary allocation for tourism, focussed marketing, and destination and infrastructure improvement in neighbouring States are going to affect Kerala badly, he says. The poor waste-disposal and management systems, frequent outbreak of epidemics, high air fare, and poor air connectivity are going to cost the tourism sector dear, Mr. Najeeb says.

“Initial reports as per the reservations made at the KTDC properties show that the recession in Europe and other factors will not have much impact on the tourism industry this season. We are not anticipating a big dip in the tourist arrivals,” K.G. Mohanlal, Managing Director of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation Hotels and Resorts, says.

In its Samudra property at Kovalam, occupancy was 63 per cent in October and 68 per cent of the rooms have been booked for November and 49 per cent for December.

But Mr. Najeeb says those at the helm of affairs should wake up and take proactive, progressive, and swift decisions to overcome an imminent crisis in the tourism industry, which generates an income of Rs.13,000 crore a year and provides employment to nearly 12-lakh people. Controversies that may affect tourism as in Munnar and the frequent hartals and agitations should be avoided, he adds.

The industry is worried over whether various problems will affect domestic tourist arrivals as well. Kerala will have to counter the package trips being offered from the metros to the Far East countries, at costs ranging from Rs.16,000 to Rs.25,000 for five nights.

S. Anil Radhakrishnan

The recession in Europe, travel advisories, and several other factors give the jitters to the tourism industry.

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