KOTTAYAM, India – A sharp decline in arrival of foreign tourists to Kerala is causing concern in the tourism industry. The declining trend that started a few years ago continues unabated.
T. Damu, director of Taj group of hotels and resorts in Kerala, said that foreign tourist arrivals have declined considerably because of recession, escalating air fare and continuous rains during tourist seasons.
Major hotels that accommodate foreigners in Kumarakom said that the peak season begins in October-November. They hoped that something positive would happen to bring in more tourists this year.
Tourism agencies and houseboat owners are unanimous that there is already a lull in tourist activities mainly because of the delay in issuing visa for international tourists and consequent cancellation of tours. Many foreign tourists coming to India have rescheduled their visits to neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand etc.
The exorbitant rent for suites in star hotels, unethical and unaffordable taxi and auto rickshaw charges and above all the misconduct of touts and miserable hygiene problems are the other reasons for their absence in God’s own country. If a foreigner is spotted on the road, auto rickshaw drivers compete with one another to fleece them.
Domestic tourist arrivals are also sagging. Usually at the beginning of the season, the domestic visitors arrive from other States. This year, though the season has already started, the arrivals of domestic visitors are yet to pick up momentum. The poor inflow is affecting the houseboat sector.
Of about 1,000 houseboats at Punnamada, only around 150 are earning the minimum to meet the daily expenses, said Mr Anil Kumar, owner of a new houseboat based at Kumarakom.
Houseboat owners have already incurred heavy losses because of stagnation in tourism sector.
Another impact is reported to be the ‘go slow’ in the sale of properties at prime locations in tourist spots where large areas have been bought by leading realtors, film stars and others, hoping for big profits later at the time of resale. In Kumarakom, many celebrities have bought plots for setting up holiday homes.