As part of Kerala special tourism projects, weddings and other corporate events are to be made part of state tourism policies.
Kerala has been recently recognised as an ideal destination for MICE’s (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions). Relatively, MICE’s are identified as the fastest growing segments in the tourism industry. The conventional and unconventional meeting opportunities that Kerala offers make it an ideal destination for MICE’s.
The idea is totally right as Kerala has some of the country’s best picturesque backdrops for meetings and conferences. Kerala has an impressive array of accommodation, leisure and other conference-support facilities that highlight the aquatic and tropical beauty of the place.
The two week long road journey called “Kerala Blog Express” for selected bloggers from around the world to begin on March 1. The road journey will start from south to the north of Kerala on a branded luxury bus that carries 25 bloggers selected through an online voting created by Kerala Tourism.
Kerala Blog Express will travel through destinations like Alappuzha, Kovalam, Varkala, Kumarakom, Thekkady, Munnar, Wayanad, Kochi and Bekal during the two-week journey. The selected bloggers will also be able to participate in activities like boating in the backwaters, experience Ayurvedic treatment, and watch Kathakali performances, besides giving bath to the state’s famous captive elephants.
Entries from as many as 80 countries, including US, UK, Poland, Spain, Germany, Canada and Indonesia had been received. Some of the contestants participating in the race for the 25 seats have already featured in National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveller and Lonely Planet. The participants who have their own blogs like travel writers, photographers and bloggers are eligible to enter the selection. The registration for ‘Kerala Blog Express’ journey had ended on January 10. Profiles of participants are available on Kerala Blog Express website for voting by the general public.
While then, the Kerala Tourism website has won the national tourism award for the 6th time for ‘most innovative use of information technology’ for 2012-13. The website was rated best among travel websites from India.
Kerala Tourism bags the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance. The award has made Kerala the first Indian state to win the UN award. It is considered to be the top UN Award for global leadership in creating innovative initiatives through Responsible Tourism. The award was presented on January 22 at a ceremony held at the International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR), in Madrid, Spain.
Kerala was awarded for its innovative ‘Responsible Tourism’ project in Kumarakom. The project had successfully linked the local community with the hospitality industry and government departments. This in turn has created a model for empowerment and development of the people in the area while sustaining eco-friendly tourism.
The Kumarakom model initiative had earlier won the National Award for Best Rural Tourism Project in March 2013 and also, the PATA Grand Award for Environment. At the awards ceremony, the UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai said, “Kerala, a popular ecotourism destination, portrays responsible and sustainable tourism in an exceptional manner”. “The recognition Kerala received is a great step towards creating a better understanding among other destinations”, He added. Taleb Rifai wished “continued success” for Kerala Tourism!
In 2013, the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism had won the UNWTO Ulysses Award for its Homestay Experience Programme.
The Monsoon in Kerala has ceased and, it is the time to celebrate your holidays and special occasions on Kerala Beaches and backwaters. At present there are two beach festivals happening in Kerala. One is at Cherai Beach in Ernakulam and another is at Munakkal beach, Thrissur.
Cherai Beach Tourism Fest 2013
The Cherai Beach Tourism Fest is celebrating its 13th anniversary this year. Every year the beach fest is a celebration of the local temple arts, folklores and the extinguishing traditional classical art form – Chavittunadakam.
The Cherai beach fest falls on the last week of December every year and this incorporates Christmas and New Year celebration. The fest started on 22 December and ends by 31 with the New Year. Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan inaugurated the tourism mela on 22 December. The ten days Cultural celebration exhibits a variety of activities by local and national artists.
Muzris Beach Fest 2013
It is said that Muzris, a coastal village in Thrissur district of Kerala was once the “Gateway of India”! The Muzris Beach Fest that happens now is yet another chance to rewind the memories of that great past. Muzris town was once a shining abode for world tourists and businesses until the disastrous 1341 flood washed away even the footprints of this great town.
The Muzris Beach fest is held on the famous Azhikode-Munakkal Beach from 27 to 31 December 2013. This is 8th beach fest held on the Munakkal Beach. It is held in association with Kerala Tourism Department, Eriyad Panchayath and Azhikode-Munakkal Muzris Destination Management Council. During the fest, there will be an array of colourful events like Helicopter Ride, Kite flying, adventure tourism programmes, Cultural activities by International artists, sea cruises, a rain of colours, beach race, food fest, carnivals and processions. The five day fest will have a day full of activities that lasts until midnight. One of the major attractions of the fest is that one can enjoy a ride on a horse or Camel.
The nearest towns of Azhikode are Kodungallur and Paravoor. The Munakkal beach in Azhikode has got the vast shore stretch around 3 km along the main beach side. It is the main attraction of this village. The main activity of the villagers here is fishing.
Both these beach festivals are sure to add more merry and excitement to the holidays of the tourists and the local people here.
Water bus, the new boat service in the Vyttila-Kakkanad sector was inaugurated a couple of days back by the Union Minister K V Thomas. Water Bus, operated by the Kerala State Water Transport Department, set off on its maiden trip from the newly built jetty near the Vytilla Mobility Hub. The boat has the capacity to carry 8 bikes and 50 passengers.
The service will be a boon for those who work in Kakkanad /Infopark as the timings are fixed in such a way that it suits the office goers. The boat will reach the jetty, near InfoPark, in 30 minutes whereas the buses take around 45 minutes.The fare from Vyttila-Kakkanad trip is fixed at Rs. 8 and there will be seven daily services, the first in the morning being at 9.30 am.
The boat service is expected to take off a considerable load from the choked roads leading to Kakkanad. Boat service is way cheaper and faster alternative to the crowded buses that ply in this route. “Proper boat jetties with ample parking space must be built on the way to Kakkanad. SWTD must also recruit 15 crew members to man the sister vessel that is ready to operate in hub-Kakkanad sector,” said Benny Behanan, MLA.
“Our aim is to introduce catamaran-type fibre-reinforced-plastic boats, which are delivered within a few months of the order being placed. Being lighter and faster than steel boats, they can cover the Vyttila-Kakkanad distance in 12 minutes,” Elias George, MD of KMRL and Chairman of Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA). said.
Inland navigation, which can make travelling within Kerala a lot more faster and congestion free holds a tremendous potential and Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) has drawn up a Rs 40-crore project for the purpose. There are many viable water routes that can be explored and developed like for instance the Kollam-Kottapuram National Waterway III can make a potential cargo transportation route whereas a boat service from Poothotta to Cochin city will go a long way in decongesting the city during peak morning hours as buses take around 90 minutes to cover a distance of just 22 Km due to the pitiable condition of the roads and traffic bottle necks!
Photo Courtesy: RouteCochin.com
Malayalee poets have always fantasised rivers, forests and lagoons as nature’s dowry in some of their best literary creations. However it seems that these have become the private gifts of the land mafia and the resort owners in Kerala going by the way they usurp priceless and highly fragile land by flouting the many rules and regulations in place.
Banyan Tree , a Seven-star deluxe villa resort, built on an islet in Vembanad backwaters, a Ramsar site, (a wetland of international importance and protected by the Ramsar Convention)with full cooperation of state agencies, has been served a demolition notice. Promoted by the Muthoot group and Kuwait-based Kapico group, it is alleged that this resort was built by filling up the surrounding backwaters to reclaim land
Banyan Tree is located on the private island of Nediyathuruthu, surrounded by the unspoilt beauty of the backwaters in Kerala’s Alleppey district. It is ironical that the luxurious all-pool villa, Banyan Tree is the first Indian outpost of the award-winning resort chain group, which owns premium resorts and hotels in Asia-Pacific.
The Kerala High Court, July 25 has come down heavily by ordering the demolition of all 59 villas and other constructions on the tiny island in the backwaters within three months. A division bench of the high court, comprising justices K M Joseph and K Harilal cited violation of various laws and norms like the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), EIA Notification-2006, Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act-2008 and Wetland conservation and Management Rules-2010.
Nediyathuruthu, one of the the seven tiny islets in the Vembabad backwaters in Alappuzha was originally made of paddy fields and water-logged areas. The land , which was acquired by a chartered accountant from various owners was later purchased by Mini Muthoot group, a non-banking financial corporation in Kerala and the Kuwait-based Kapico Group, which has operations in over 11 countries. The paddy fields were filled up along with the surrounding backwaters of around 2.04 acres and a private jetty was constructed without obtaining permission from the irrigation department.
According to the coastal zone regulations, constructions within 50 metre from the shoreline are strictly prohibited. The maximum height of the structures should not exceed nine metre and it is mandatory to leave 20 metre distance between two buildings. Banyan tree resort has found to have violated all these rules. This luxury hotel project, which was built at around 250 crore also failed to obtain the mandatory clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest for all investments above Rs 5 crore.
Some of the other resorts that are facing action include Vaamika island and green lagoon. Only tough action will deter the land sharks and private groups from eating into the prime land of Kerala. The area of Vembanad lake has been reduced to a paltry 12,000 hectares from 42,000 hectares in the past few decades, and if adequate monitoring system in not in place , the day is not far away when the largest fresh water lake in Asia would dry up like Bharatapuzha, which has now been reduced to a thin streak of water from being a bountiful river in the past!
American author and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain arrived in Alappuzha in March 2010 to learn about Kerala’s mouth-watering spicy cuisine about which he had heard from many. Later, his visit was featured on Discovery Channel’s culinary and cultural adventure programme titled ‘No Reservations’. (see episode in question) This was hosted by him. His opinion about Kerala cuisine tasted in the toddy shops caught on and foreign tourists started flocking to toddy shops in Alappuzha. Bourdain appreciated not only the cuisine of toddy shops but also the hospitality of toddy shops.
His programme helped a lot to gain global attention and the toddy shop owners are formulating new strategies to lure tourists by their traditional culinary skills and improved way of toddy business.
The sleepy island of Valiaparamb in Kasargod district in North Kerala would have got cut off from the mainland but for the determination and grit of a handful of women. When the boatmen of the island decided to strike work citing the reason of fuel shortage to operate the boats, the women took up the challenge by taking the oars of the boat that they launched. The 24 km long Valiaparamb island is accessible only by ferry services along the Kovvai lake, which connects two other islands.
Though the water transport authorities are operating two boats, these are insufficient to cater to the travel needs of the islanders. When this issue was taken up for discussion at the Kudumbashree, a few illustrious women stepped into the scene and decided to throw in their oars into the waters literally. Instead of depending on someone to provide boat services, three enterprising women in their sixties decided to rent a boat and launch their own service which is available from 7.30 am to 6.30 pm every day. These women take scores of men , women and children across the waters to the other shores, everyday. A team of 15 workers from the self help group of Kudumbasree is now operating the service, which has become the life line of the islanders who have to travel to the mainland to eke out a living.
The district administration has made registration compulsory for all the houseboats in Alappuzha and the house boat owners have been given a time of one week for submitting the necessary documents in this regard. The Ports Department will be conducting routine inspections and the houseboats without the necessary certificates will be seized by the police and criminal cases slapped against these house boat owners.Three police patrol teams have been set up at various locations like Muhamma, Punnamada and Pallathuruthy in Vembanad Lake to conduct routine inspections inside the houseboats during cruise.
Though there are over 800 boats plying in Alappuzha backwaters only around 490 boats have registration certificates at present. In the wake of accidents involving houseboats, steps have also been initiated to revoke the license of the houseboat and the crew and to blacklist them if they are found to consume liquor on board during duty time. The Ports Department is also planning to set up a sewage treatment plant for the houseboats to prevent water pollution.
Houseboats are the biggest attractions in any Kerala holiday itinerary and by ensuring a safe and enjoyable cruise, back water tourism in Kerala will indeed get a major boost. These safety measures will indeed make Alappuzha and Kumarakom backwaters which form the nerve centres of backwater tourism more popular than never before among the tourists.