Thanks to smart card. You can now bid adieu to the nightmare of the high pitched yelling and scary stares of the bus conductors against you for not extending the correct change in city buses in Kerala. Most of the conductors hesitate to give back the change to commuters , which often lead to heated arguments and even fist fights. The smart card swipe option to travel in city buses would relieve the passengers from the hassles of always carrying change.
The success of the city on wheels project has prompted the district administration to extend the project to all private buses in future. This would make Ernakulam the first district , to issue tickets in all private buses by way of smart cards. At present 100 buses have been brought under this scheme in various routes like Vytila-vytila, Kakkanad, Aluva, Eroor, Tripunithura and Poothotta .
The inspiration for the city on wheels idea was the overwhelming success of the survey conducted by Technovia infosolutions , Kochi. The survey highlighted the problem faced by the passengers owing to the reluctance of the conductors to return the balance amount of the ticket fare. If the smart card concept becomes popular , we can hope that the city travel will become a much more enjoyable and hassle free affair for the passengers.
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
Better known as papanasam beach,Varkala beach is the only one of its type in southern Kerala that has rocky cliffs jutting right into the sea, which makes it dramatically beautiful. The bright hued sand and the ancient Janardanaswamy temple nearby adds up to the charm of this quiet and isolated sandy beach .
The online travel meta search engine of Trivago says that Varkala is one among the five affordable Indian tourist destinations and is in the 28th position in the world list of tourist destinations that can visited on a budget. Munnar is the other destination in Kerala that occupies the 60th position in the chart. The other Indian destinations include Nashik at the 21st position, Jaisalmer in Rajasthan at 41st and Alibaug in Maharashtra at the 56th position.
The ‘Best Value Index’ is calculated based on various factors including the yearly average overnight price of a standard double room and overall hotel reputation from over 82 million traveller reviews. The spots thus chosen will be world’s best in terms of delivering the best value for your money.
Nashik, which tops the list of affordable Indian destinations this year offers a night’s stay at Rs 5,665.
Morocco’s Ait Benhaddou was voted as the first among the top 100 ‘Best Value Index’ destinations in the world where an overnight stay in a standard double room in the city can cost a visitor an average Rs 3,551.
The price-comparison website of Trivago has a monthly user base of 18 million people over its 30 international platforms. The index has been compiled according to the reviews and preferences of the users of the search engine.
Varkala beach, located between Alappuzha and Kovalam in a photographer’s delight as it offers the most spectacular sunsets at the backtrop of the towering rocky cliffs and swaying palm trees.
So in case you are planning a memorable holiday experience that wont leave a hole in your wallet, then head straight to Varkala. Apart from a beach holiday it will also offer you the best of ayurveda and spiritual experience.
The prince and his entourage enjoyed the heavy downpower from deep inside the forests and the beauty of the bountiful waterfalls in Vazhachal.
Later he met the tribals who live in the periphery of the tropical forests and enquired about their food habits and mode of living.
The Prince spent around 40 minutes in the elephant corridor and was curious to know about the unique flora and fauna of the region. He also spared time to interact with the forest range officials and other senior officials of Wildlife Trust of India and other forest conservation organizations.
The authorities also introduced snake charmer Vava Suresh to the prince, who has the rare distinction of capturing over 250000 snakes till date including king cobra with bare hands and releasing them to the wild. Elephant lover Thadikannan, traditional botanist Mari and wildlife expert S Guruvayurappan also met prince Charles.
The villagers of teh otherwise sleepy villages near vazhachal accorded a rousing reception to the visiting Prince in a traditional style when his convoy passed through the area.
Image courtesy : Mail Online
Kerala has been rated as one of the 10 best travel destinations for family for 2014. Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide book publisher gave this prestigious award to Kerala at World Travel Mart in London, attended by representatives from the tourism industry from all over the world .
Kerala was put in fourth position among the top 10 overseas family destinations by Lonely Planet while the first three positions were bagged by Denmark, Thailand and Belize. The other child-friendly destinations in this prestigious league include New York City, Hawaii, Prague, Italy and Iceland.
The World Travel Mart that was held from 4-7 November 2013 attracted a huge crowd of visitors and delegates. Some of the dignitaries who visited the WTM Kerala pavilion that had been themed on the Ayurveda included Jonty Rhodes, the former South African international cricket player and brand ambassador for South African Tourism.
“The intensity of travel in India could put you off taking a trip here with family, but Kerala is a family-friendly version, more laid back than other regions, greener, slower paced. There are also lots of national parks for elephant spotting, palm fringed beaches and boat trips along the lush canals of the backwaters,” The Lonely Planet said.
The award function which was held in London has a special significance for Kerala considering the fact that Britain is one of the most important markets for Kerala tourism industry, Kerala had recorded a footfall of over 1.5 lakh tourists from Britain last year.
The coveted award was received from the Lonely plant by the Kerala Tourism director S. Harikishore. “With the British economy registering the fastest growth in the last three years in the previous quarter, the mood at the World Travel Mart hosted by London was upbeat” opined Harikishore.
The Kerala delegation included 12 co-exhibitors from the hospitality segment of the state. The annual event of the WTM, London is feted as one of the premium most travel and tourism events in the world. Over 5,000 exhibitors from 184 countries and different regions attended this year’s WTM.
While the recorded tourist foot falls in Kerala during the year was 4.2 lakh, it jumped to about 8 lakh during 2012 , recording a spectacular growth rate of over 85% during the period.
During the past 6 years, many major international hotel chains became operational in Kerala, which created 30 to 40 percent growth in hotel rooms. It is interesting to note that many tourist destinations in North Kerala like Bakel and Wayanad, which also emerged as major tourism destinations during the period .
The Government of India may consider offering visa on arrival to 40 countries and extend this facility for all foreign tourists above 60 years from almost all countries around the world. This significant move towards a liberal visa regime will go a long way in ensuring a hassle free travel to the country and will boost the tourism potential.
The tourism ministry has proposed that visa on arrival be extended to 40 countries, from where most tourists have reached India. These countries include the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Australia and Brazil among others though the list fails to mention any neighbouring countries except China.
In another recommendation the ministry has suggested that all foreign tourists above 60 years of age be given visa on arrival . The decision on these recommendations will be taken at a meeting today which includes representatives from the ministries of home affairs, external affairs, tourism, Planning Commission and the national security advisor.
At present visa on arrival facility is available in India for only tourists of 11 countries including Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos and Myanmar. A total of 12,176 visa on arrivals have been issued till August 2013, which is 29.4% more compared to that of last year.
India has at present one of the most restrictive visa regimes at par with countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. India is ranked 74 out of 93 countries in a “visa restriction index” released by Henley & Partners, which puts India just above Pakistan, China, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iran. The figures highlight the tight restrictions that foreign citizens face while travelling to India.
By increasing the number of countries that fall in the loop of visa on arrival norm , officials hope that the delays and complaints of foreign tourists can be cut down significantly. A surge in foreign tourist arrivals can play a vital role in managing the prevailing forex crisis.
The current account deficit, which is the difference between inflow and outflow of foreign exchange was at an all-time high of 4.8% of GDP or $88.2 billion in 2012-13. The government plans to pull it down to 3.8% of GDP. A study by the tourism ministry show that by liberalizing the visa regime alone India can earn a foreign exchange of around $36 billion by the year 2020.
By relieving the visa restrictions, many states like Goa and Kerala, rated as the most popular tourist places in India can earn a substantial revenue by tourism can expect an impetus in the inflow of foreign tourists.
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!
Kerala is all set to celebrate and revive the 2000 Years Old Heritage of Spice route of Kerala , which had established trading relations with as many as 31 countries in Asia and Europe. The ambitious project of the revival of the Spice route got an impetus with the support and interest of UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), which is taking it up as a deserving mega project.
The recently concluded three-day international meet in China, on ‘Silk Road Tourism’ organized by UNWTO had highlighted and praised the developmental activities and the revival plans of Kerala Tourism in this regard. The Spice Route initiative of Kerala tourism was lauded by many including the Asia and Pacific regions Director of UNWTO Xujing.
In the international meet, this mega project was presented by Tourism Secretary Suman Billa. He pointed out that Kerala holds immense potential in reviving and exploiting the Spice Route, for the benefit of modern world. The strong evidence excavated from Muziris in Kerala which was the major port of entry to India from the West for the ancient spice trade, has unveiled a chance to recreate the Spice Route,which has always been a favorite topic of study among historians.
The spice route project implementation will not only boost the cultural, historical and archaeological exchanges with different countries around the world but will also go a long way in re establishing Kerala’s maritime trade with all the countries connected by the Spice Route.