Full steam ahead for global voyagers – Los Angeles Times: “India: New nonstop flights from U.S. gateways make India less grueling to get to, and domestic air service within India is improving too. From pashminas to Bollywood, India’s culture is hot, even as labor outsourcing keeps the country on the news pages.
Meanwhile, a string of pampering rural retreats run by Amanresorts, Oberoi, Taj and other companies is wowing the moneyed classes. They include converted maharajahs’ palaces and over-the-top tented camps, and many provide ‘simply unforgettable’ luxury and service, Lassers said.
With its India business in 2005 up 55% from the previous year, Abercrombie & Kent has opened a third office in India, in Jaipur. (The others are in Agra and Delhi.)”
They dont mention Kerala, but based on my own experiences, many Americans are travelling there to see what successfull development really means. Those numbers are just going to grow
Independent Online Edition > Asia: “Turmeric and cardamom and pepper and cinnamon: the combined aromas teased the taste buds and induced a welter of anticipation. Lunch was in the making as we embarked and explored our quarters….”
A two week stay in Kerala through Independent on Sunday Newspaper. Karma Kerala offers a similar two week jaunt
Telegraph | Travel | Packing it all in: fumes and friendship – welcome to the rail India: “It was as I sat contemplating the 31-hour journey ahead to Trivandrum and the peaceful backwaters of Kerala that I first noticed the smell… “
Amusing Sunday Telegraph article on travelling to Trivandrum from Mumbai on the train for £5.50
Monday January 23 2006 08:52 IST
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The times when a mere mention of backwaters, beaches, wildlife or hill stations is enough to seduce a foreigner will soon be past. An increasing number of tourists to the state are more concerned about the effect their visit would have on the lives of the local community than the scenic splendour.
Tourism has crossed its adolescence and is gradually entering adulthood where ‘responsible travel’ is the defining slogan.
“Eco-friendliness and community participation are the two most important parameters that will in the near future decide the itinerary of a responsible traveller. Tourism is ceasing to be a one-way affair,” says Tourism Director B. Suman.
This explains the latest eco-drive of the Tourism Department. Hotels, resorts and lodgings are newly classified on the basis of their eco-friendliness.
Investors in the tourism sector with eco-wise plans are given additional incentives. Also on are moves to recruit tribals as guides for bird-watchers and trekkers visiting the various wildlife sanctuaries in the state.
The shift in tourist priorities during this year is a clear reflection of the changing times. While Kovalam registered at least a 20 percent dip in tourists, Kumbalangi model village in Kochi has seen arrivals shoot up by over 35 percent.
“Kovalam has transformed into an ugly concrete jungle, the result of skewed priorities. The tension between the locals and the beach resorts in the area too is well known.
“Kumbalangi, on the other hand, is a model village where the locals reap most of the rewards of tourism,” says Roy Mathew, whose ‘Winged Dreams’ organises charter flights to various parts of the country.
In the near future homestays run by the local communities will become more popular than five-star resorts, he forecasts.
‘Detachment’ is out and ‘integration’ is in. For a ‘responsible traveller’, the world’s highest tea plantations will not be Munnar’s biggest attraction. The chance to interact with the Muduvan tribes will be.
For him, a hut above the trees will be attractive only if it is made of sustainable hardwood. For him, a traditional ‘tharavad’ will be appealing only if it is maintained using materials bought from the local craftsmen.
The social changes are already evident. Bullock carts, once used to illegally log sandalwood from the Periyar Wildlife reserve, now drive tourists along the reserve.
Catamarans, once used by the locals for sand-mining in the Wayanad district, now take tourists for lagoon cruises.
The increasing dependence of European travellers on international sites like www.responsibletravel.com and www.ecoclub.com have given a further fillip to the ‘responsible movement’.
A number of destinations, homestays and resorts in the state are listed in these sites along with others in the world tourist map.
They promote only those kind of tours that give the traveller the opportunity to merge with the local people and support specific projects that concern conservation, employment generation and community management.
Kochi: Aries Marine Engineering Services, claimed to be the biggest ship design and consultancy firm based in Sharjah, UAE, has come out with its new venture on fabrication of the longest ‘Chundan Vallam’ (Snake Boat) for tourism. The aim is to create an international market for the snake boats which will be made of steel so that it does not sink, Sohan Roy, Managing Director of Aries Marine, who is the architect of this venture, said.
The first steel snake boat, with 170 feet length, will be constructed by Aries Marine on an experimental basis and if successful, the vessel will be made of aluminium and fibreglass, he said. Roy said the snake boats made of steel could make revolutionary changes in Kerala’s tourism sector since the present snake boats, made of wood are used only for certain events in a year and become white elephants during the rest of the time.
On the other hand, steel snake boats will earn revenue during the idle time, he said. These two boats could be connected to two small ‘Odi Boats’ making it stable and a platform can be assembled on top within a few minutes, and this could be used as a ‘house boat’ during tourist season, according to Roy. Any foreigner or local with no experience in rowing snake boats can row them safely, he said.
Aries had recently launched the ‘botel’ (back water operated tourism entertainment launch), a replacement for the present house boats, Roy said. The construction of this big snake boat, which can accommodate 170 rowers will commence soon and is likely to participate in the world renowned Nehru Trophy boat race in the Punnamada lake in Alappuzha district, which attracts thousands of domestic as well as foreign tourists. Aries Marine has over 70 engineers, 90 per cent of whom are Indians.
Sunday January 15 2006 10:27 IST
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Sensing that the tourists have become road and rail weary, the state will soon give them the option of hiring a sea or air taxi to reach their favourite destinations within the state.
The plan to introduce seaplane services from popular beach and backwater destinations and the move to set up landing strips in almost all the districts in the state are at an advanced stage.
Says Tourism Director B Suman: “These are innovations whose time has come. We have been on the lookout for private players with deep pockets and risk-taking capabilities. The response has been very encouraging.”
If things work according to plan, the first-ever seaplane service in the country might take off from Kovalam to Kumarakom within three months. Suman said that the leading resorts in major beach and backwater destinations too had shown interest to form linkages among themselves to operate seaplane services.
For instance, a beach resort in Kovalam can strike a partnership with a lake resort in Kumarakom to share their clients.
Seaplanes are two to six-seater planes that take off and land in water. Finding a launch pad or landing strip for seaplanes is already been taken care of as the state possesses a 600-km-long coastline and nearly 900 km of backwater stretch.
However, vacant plots are required in all the districts to arrange landing strips for six to ten-seater air taxis. “It won’t be difficult to identify five to six acres in every district.
It won’t cost much either. The only infrastructure required is an air traffic control tower. The state should create as many small airports as possible within the state to solve its connectivity problem,” former Tourism Commissioner of India B K Goswami told this website’s newspaper.
The state’s tourism has grown to international standards but its roads have failed to keep pace. “A majority of our tourists fall within the above-55 age group. They dislike the idea of travelling in a bus for more than 30 minutes.
So, a tourist in Kovalam will hesitate to take a 15-hour bus journey to Bekal,” additional tourism director Ashok Kumar Singh said. Therefore, exotic locales like Kappad, Muzhappalingad and Bekal are still well-kept secrets.
“These air taxis will be enough inspiration for tourists to explore relatively obscure destinations like Bekal,” Goswami said.
The demand for air and sea taxis has been assured, tourism planners feel.
The logic: A tourist who spends Rs 20,000 a day for staying at a premium hotel can easily shell out Rs 5,000 for hassle-free travel. And during off-season, they could be used to transport corporate heads and political leaders.
Improve infrastructure to tap tourism
Posted online: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 0000 hours IST
News that tourist arrivals in India touched an all-time high during 2005 of 3.91 million, surpassing the 3.8 million target may have government officials breaking out in cheers. But they need to take a reality check. Far smaller countries in the Asian region with just a fraction of India’s tourism potential, like Thailand, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, record far higher tourist arrivals. As per the World Tourism Organisation, in 2004, Thailand received 11.6 million tourists, Hong Kong 21.8 million and Sri Lanka 5 million, while India got merely 3.3 million visitors.
According to CII data, as opposed to the global average of 3.8%, tourism contributes merely 2% to India’s GDP. This must change, and it can. After all, given its geographical stretch, rich heritage, the heterogeneity of its cultures and now even medical tourism, India has a lot to offer to both the foreign traveller and domestic tourists.
In view of the sector’s importance and potential, the Planning Commission in the Tenth Plan (2002-07) increased the allocation to this sector to 0.27% from 0.7% in the Ninth Plan. A lot needs to be done to improve infrastructure, be it roads, rail and air links and airports. With not a single airport conforming to international standards, the sorry state of our airports is enough to put off any foreign traveller. And though the tourism ministry has undertaken campaigns like ‘Incredible India’ to draw visitors, such initiatives will help only if infrastructure, too, is improved. Also, most states need to do far more to attract tourists. They can, perhaps, take a leaf out of the book of newer states like Uttaranchal and Chhattisgarh that are faring quite well or the states that have traditionally attracted foreign travellers, Kerala and Goa.
Among the sector’s crucial spinoffs are forex and job generation. Forex earnings from the sector in 2005 stood at Rs 25,172 crore, a 16.5% rise over last year’s Rs 21,603 crore. As for employment, the Plan panel has estimated that tourism can generate more jobs per million rupees of investment than any other sector in the economy. Need we say more?
“Foreign tourist arrivals in India in the calendar year 2005 touched an all-time high of 3.91 million compared with 3.45 million registered last year which shows a rise of 13.2 percent.
The arrival figure has exceeded the tourism ministry’s target for the year of 3.8 million. For the year 2006, the ministry has set a tourist arrival target of 4.4 million.
Foreign exchange earnings in 2005 were pegged at USD 5.7 billion compared with USD 4.7 billion last year which points to an increase of 20.2 percent.
Ministry officials attribute the rise to the ‘Incredible India’ campaign, which has helped the market for tourist arrivals well.
Furthermore, the month of December last year saw tremendous growth with tourist arrivals pegged at 463,613 compared with 417,527 in the corresponding month in the preceding year.
Destinations like Kerala and Goa arent rise in foreign tourist arrivals in India – Irna scoring over traditional hotspots like Rajasthan and Agra. Newer states such as Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal are giving tough competition to the established players.
‘Going by this growth and launching of several innovative schemes like `Atithi Devo Bhava’, `Priyadarshini’ (women guides and taxi operators) and `Rural Tourism’, India will become one of the hot destinations very soon,’ the ministry said.”
A rich and diverse cultural heritage, ancient cities thriving along with hi-tech metros, a vastness that spans Himalayan heights and oceanic depths – all this and more – has made India retain its slot as the fifth most sought after tourist destination in the world for a second year in row.
The “enchanting and intoxicating” country beat South Africa, France, Italy, New Zealand and Alaska on the top ten list while it was just a slot behind China as the world’s most preferred destination of 2005, according to iexplore, an online seller of adventure experiential travel, which offers ten tours in India.
China slipped to 4th position from last year’s third, while last year’s top-destination Peru was pushed down to the second slot by last year’s runners-up Egypt. Galapagos Island in the Pacific Ocean was on the third position.
“The most frequently visited part of India is the golden triangle which includes Delhi and the magnificent monuments of Agra and Jaipur, a legacy of centuries of Muslim rule but there is much besides.
The unfairly maligned great cities of Mumbai and Kolkata (Calcutta) have a bustling, colourful charm, while the Holy City of Varanasi or the awe-inspiring temples of Tamil Nadu are worthy objects of pilgrimage.
For those who prefer more sybaritic pleasures, the palm-fringed beaches of Goa have a European charm all of their own” says the website.
It adds, “one of the fascinations of India is the juxtaposition of old and new; centuries of history from the pre-historic Indus civilization to the British Raj rub shoulders with the computer age and Bangalore’s ‘Silicon Valley’ is as much a part of the world’s largest democracy as the remotest village is,”.
“It is India’s vastness that challenges the imagination: the sub-continent, 3200km (2000 miles) from the mountain vastness of the Himalayas in the North to the tropical lushness of Kerala in the South, is home to one sixth of the world’s population, a diverse culture and an intoxicatingly rich history,” it points out.
South Africa and New Zealand has seen strong growth to move into the travel company’s annual top ten list for the first time ever. They have climbed from 13 to 6 and from 18 to 9 respectively. France has also seen some growth to rise from 10th to 7th.
The other places showing strong growth in 2005 included morocco, Argentina and Jordan. Chile and Costa Rica, which had been among the top, ten in 2004 has moved down this year.
Founded in 1999, iexplore offers hundreds of guided tours to the farthest corners of the earth.
Among them are Northern India Gold, Southern India Gold, Northern India Silver, Crème-de la Crème, the Palace on Wheels tour, India on Railways and Tiger Trails in India.
Cutting a path – Express Hospitality: “Cutting a path
In their quest for offering guests the ultimate holiday experience, leading hotel chains and standalone properties are increasingly taking the road less travelled. By setting up properties in out-of-the-ordinary tourist destinations, hotels are giving tourism the much needed fillip. Reema Sisodia finds out the challenges hoteliers face in investing their money in lesser known destinations”