By: Ashwin Manikandan
About two months after Kerala was hit by its worst flood in almost a century, the tourism sector in the southern state is slowly but surely heading towards recovery. In a survey conducted by the state tourism department, it was found that 60 of the 70 major tourist destinations of the state have been restored and are back to being operational.
The ‘tourism readiness survey’ which was conducted in September had district-level officials visiting 70 major tourist destinations across 14 districts in the state and gauging them based on three parameters – overall impact by the flood, damage to road connectivity and condition of hotels and resorts in the area, a senior official in the tourism department told ET.
“Almost 90% of the major tourist destinations including Munnar, Thekkady, Alappuzha, Kumarakom were found either restored or unaffected by the flood in the survey. A few destinations in Palakkad and Thrissur such as Neliyampathy and Silent Valley are still in restoration process mainly due to damage to road connectivity,” IAS Rani George, Kerala tourism secretary said during a media interaction at a trade meet organised by the department in Mumbai on Friday.
Tourism contributes to about 10% of the state’s GDP and is responsible for about 15 lakh jobs. In 2017, the state generated revenues worth Rs.32380 crores from international and domestic tourism-related activities.
The state government in August had approximated a loss of Rs.1500 crore to the tourism industry both on account of damage due to the flood and the cancellation of bookings in the months following the disaster.
However, the tourism department is confident that the industry will have a fast revival and the demand for tourism will bounce right back with new products and events slated to be launched in the upcoming months.
The world’s largest functional bird sculpture, Jatayu Earth Centre – a 200-feet long, 150-feet wide and 70-feet high statue of the Hindu mythological bird Jatayu – is slated to open in November. The eco-park with a virtual reality museum and state-of-the-art ropeway is expected to be a big tourist attraction according to the tourist department.
Apart from that, the annual Kochi Muziris Biennale, a global festival where contemporary artistes from around the world exhibit their artwork, will be organised as per schedule between November and March in Kochi.
This year’s major attraction Neelakurinji – a flower which blooms on the Western Ghats once every 12 years — has also started attracting tourists back to hill-stations of Munnar and Wayanad after initial scares that the flood might have washed them away. “We thought that the flood would have caused major damage to the flowers, but they seem to have survived the rains,” said George.