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Romancing the rain, Kerala style

Hospitality stakeholders in Kerala’s tourism sector are vying with one another to woo visitors during the annual monsoon season, which was traditionally considered to be the off-season for tourists visiting the State.

Domestic tourists are being encouraged to visit Kerala even during the annual monsoon season, which is traditionally the off-season.

It was about eight years ago that Kerala Tourism (KT) began to promote the monsoon as a Dream Season, with the stakeholders – offering accommodation and tour packages at competitive rates from the time the monsoon begin in early June to the end of September when the regular tourist season kicks off. The target group now includes people from the country and Middle East which reel under the summer heat. Westerners generally shun the monsoon because they yearn for a sunny climate.

This monsoon, players in the sector hope that a share of Indians who travel abroad will instead visit Kerala because of the fall in value of the rupee and the agitation by pilots of Air India.

The KT website has listed a host of resorts, hotels, home stays, ayurveda centres, houseboats and tour operators, their facilities and special tariff for the season. “We have begun media campaigns in north Indian States to woo visitors. We are participating in nine trade fairs in two-tier cities, targeting people including those who would be on Diwali vacation,” said a KT official.

A section of hospitality stakeholders said that KT must do more to promote monsoon tourism.

“The monsoon provides a romantic setting, especially in places like Munnar. More awareness campaigns must be done,” said T. Damu, former member of the National Tourism Advisory Council and vice-president of Indian Hotels Company Limited.

Apart from being the ideal time for Ayurveda treatments, agrarian/farm tourism holds much potential during the monsoons. Ethic food festivals too can be organised, where karkidaka kanji, bamboo-rice payasam which hold medicinal value can be served.

The State’s water bodies have been marketed well and now its time to promote the rains. NGOs can be roped in to ensure cleanliness of locales, he said.

The State-run KTDC is decking up the Bolghatty Palace Hotel, its prime property in Kochi that abuts the backwaters, so that guests can serenade the rains. The property has a mix of heritage and non-heritage hotel rooms apart from a few honeymoon cottages.

“Our Dream Season tariff is very competitive and the cottages are being done up. As a result, there is higher room occupancy than last year. The adjacent international marina is another attraction and we have 24 rooms overlooking the marina,” said Alex P. Joshua, manager. The marketing by KT was not as good as during previous years, said the executive director of cgh-earth George Dominic. “The AI pilots strike would affect the arrival of tourists from the Middle East. Schools reopening across the country by mid-June, is another factor. But we can expect young couples who are on vacation,” he said.

The monsoon is an ideal time for promoting health tourism in Kerala. Apart from Ayurveda centres, spas too are in demand, said Sree Kumar Shekhar, the director, sales and marketing of Le Meridien, Kochi.

The AI pilots strike and the skyrocketing ticket price have resulted in many Arabs cancelling their Kerala trip and visiting Sri Lanka, which has a cheaper airfare, he said.

Source : The Hindu