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.
Ever wished to explore the dramatic unexplored charm of Kerala as in the past , when it was free from the footprints of mass tourism trails? If yes, take a look at these lagoon resorts that appear to have been left out of the time machine! Welcome to Vamika Island, in Vettila thuruth near Eramalloor in Alapuzha. The brain child of the German architect Valus Shoozner, who spent a substantial part of his life time in Kerala, this island resort in now owned by the Reheja group based in Mumbai.
The backwaters meanders slowly along these lagoons that sit pretty in the open vastness of over 7.5 acres of lush green landscape. What awaits you here is the serenity of a hermitage. There are holiday homes of various types in this lagoon. From the ancient homesteads, which have been carefully assembled from traditional Kerala homes that had to be demolished to the contemporary and modern, there is a range of accommodation options.
You will feel at home literally in these homes that ensure the ultimate privacy and quiet accommodation option. A private swimming pool, a boat ride along the backwaters and an exquisite dining experience onboard are some of the other attractions. There is also a museum that features interesting displays like holy ash containers and the highly ornate’ kavadis’ that are used for temple festivals.
There are five individual houses, Hainoon, Orange, Stone house, wooden house and Casurina apart from a museum in Vamika right now. Hainoon has been reconstructed from a 200 year old Kerala homestead . This two room tiled house with granary and the traditional pooja room, constructed in the traditional Naalukettu style with an open air courtyard will make a delightful option to enjoy nature and its subtle mood swings.
While wooden house, Stone house and Cassarina exudes the classic charm of traditional architecture, Orange stands out for its contemporary and vibrant theme. The island is lush green with trees and plants that are unique to Kerala. Smoking and drinking is prohibited in these backwater resorts.
The houses will have a combined occupancy of just 24. The guests reach the resort by boat and they will be taken care by a personal butler who will be at their service always. You can decide the type of food and the place of dining. From a romantic backwater dinner to an alfresco dining in the garden, the choices are all yours. You can learn cooking too. Traditional Kerala style food with generous portion of fish and vegetables are served. There is a range of outdoor activities too. From fishing to ayurveda spa, boat cruise,badminton and yoga, there is something for everyone here. So if solitude is the theme of your Kerala holidays, Vamika will be a good option for sure!
With the steady increase in the inflow of domestic travelers, especially from the cash rich states like Gujarat and Rajasthan, Kerala hotels have come up with a predominantly vegetarian menu to cater to the eclectic tastes of Jains and other sects who are purely vegetarians. Kerala has become a vegetable dishes-preferred tourist spot, shedding its pseudonym of being a ‘meat-eaters’ paradise’.
The tourism industry has come up with an array of lip smacking vegetable recipes to cater to the vegetarian palates of domestic travelers, which made up 10 percent of the total domestic tourist footfalls that was pegged at 7.8 million last year.
“Pomfret fry or beef curry may be the dining nirvana for some travellers, but an ‘only-vegetarian kitchen’ is essential for many Indian travellers,” Kerala Tourism director M Sivasankar told.
The tourism department has asked 500 star hotels to set up exclusive vegetarian kitchens as part of its Dream Season Campaign. KTDC has started serving vegetarian meals in house boat cruises and in the coming days , more operators might join this trend.
The inflow of rich Jain families is equally high. “We are also taking more care to make foods preferred by the Jain community available,” says Paulson Pookkattil, chef in a houseboat.
With the volcano ash in Europe and the British airways strike threatening to bring down the number of foreign tourist inflow in the coming days, the tourism industry is pinning its hopes on domestic tourism, which is on a steady growth track.
Kitchens in modern homes have become more of a showcase to flaunt the imported crystals and cutlery rather than a place to cook and serve the goodness of home cooked food because more and more people in cities like Cochin prefer to eat out all through the day! Hard pressed on time, the working couples in Kerala find take away packs and dining out as the most convenient options to satiate their hungry cells. From the small and simple Thattukadas at every nook and corner of the city to the sweeping multinational food chain outlets like KFC and Dominos and the North Indian paav baaji vendors on push carts, there is something special for everyone in this city. But how many of us have ever tried to find out what is cooking behind the scenes of the flashy interiors and glossy menu cards filled with rhyming yet strange and incomprehensible names in almost every language in this world!
This incident that happened a fortnight back in my neighborhood was an eyeopener for me. When a young doctor, who was a psychiatrist in a city hospital planned a dinner out in a posh mall, he would not have thought that it will be his last supper! The young couple accompanied by their kids went to their favorite restaurant in a latest mall in the city, well known for some of the flashiest outlets. While the doctor chose mushroom dishes, his wife and kids opted for something different. The dishes were served piping hot and were decorated tastefully. The doctor savored his favorite delicacy, sharing jokes with his family. After a fulfilling dinner the couple was driving back to their home at Thripunithura when suddenly the doctor who was behind the wheels felt exhausted and weak. Soon he was rushed to the nearby super specialty hospital, where he breathed his last due to mushroom poisoning.
Mushroom poisoning happens due to the ingestion of wild mushrooms after misidentification of a toxic mushroom as an edible species because of their close resemblance in terms of colour and appearance. Even highly experienced wild mushroom gatherers fall victims to the poisonous effects of toxic species, despite being well aware of the risks.
Many of us do not seem to ponder deep beyond the chic and stylish Italian or French names of these delicacies. So, before you choose dishes that you are not familiar with, spare a thought at the risks involved. Better still, make your kitchen your favorite dining place to ensure a safe, wholesome and nourishing meal at a fraction of the cost that you shell out at these high end eateries! If not anything else, you will not be risking your lives!
Now, what I am going to reveal you is a ‘public secret’. If you are a person who wants to live more and that too with good health, you have only one option – choose to live in the countryside. This is based on a recent research conducted in London by Office for National Statistics (ONS). The research report states:
“Living in countryside will make you live longer. Those born in village and dispersed areas could expect to live longer than those in town and fringe areas. Even the poorest people fared better in the countryside. Rural poor men lived for a year longer than their urban peers.”
The difference also examined among the older, wealthy migrants from the cities had demonstrable health benefits compared with the life of their urban peers, living in more crowded, less green spaces and served by more pressured public services.
Now, speaking of our Kerala, It’s a state with green luxuries and is now turning to a state that may face extinction on the same. The hot weather Kerala is facing today despite many showers of rain is an after effect of deforestation done by man to nature’s greenery. The cities are getting crowded and more polluted and, every morning we spot a new building sprouting up on another side of the city.
The accommodation business is now foreseeing a new possibility into the countryside building resorts in acres of land. Another painful factor is that the people living in countryside sell out their land for the price that do not even comes close to 1/4 of the price of land in a city. The people living in countryside find it very difficult to maintain acres of land that consists of coconut trees and other crops that are sources of income.
Despite of all this, it’s a fact that people who live in a city are now more on to buying lands in the countryside to spent their holidays. We can reduce global warming and the scorching heat of Kerala if each one of us can contribute by planting more trees and not allowing cutting trees that are already there. Let us also take care to protect the land we have in countryside and live longer!!!
Best Western, which is one of the largest chain of luxury hotels in the world is planning to open as many as 100 hotels over the next seven years in India, to tap the tourism potential in this part of the world. This hotel chain provides marketing, reservations and operational support to over 4,200 independently owned hotels spread across 80 different countries, including the recently launched properties in Trivandrum (Kerala) and Amritsar (Punjab).
At present it has 11 operational hotels in India including the one in Cochin, Kerala. The Best Western Marickar Hotel & Suites at Nedumbassery introduces the fabled hospitality and world class accommodation standards to Cochin. Located just 2 kilometers from the Cochin International Airport, this hotel ensures a luxurious stay, true to the spirit of the Best Western motto.
The tastefully done up rooms have state of the art conveniences and many facilities like Ayurvedic spa to pamper you. Customized tours to hills stations, backwaters, beaches and historic sites would ensure a holiday well planned at unbeatable prices, topped off by the world famous Best western celebrity tag. The Best Western hotel chain has brought to this city the choicest accommodation options to the quality conscious and brand loyalists of all possible genres!
Reading up on the Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel I was curious about Robert Bristow and his house which is today refurbished into a boutique hotel. To put in simple terms, Sir Bristow was the architect of the Cochin Port and he said this on the BBC in 1935 ~
I live on a large Island made from the bottom of the sea. It is called Willingdon Island, after the present Viceroy of India. From the upper floor of my house, I look down on the finest harbour in the East.
Robert Bristow and his wife lived in Kochi for 21 years and are credited for the great changes in Cochin society. Lady Gertrude was instrumental in forming the Lotus Club – the first non-English only club of Kerala. The story goes that Lady Gertrude was denied entry into the elite Cochin Club where the aristocrats hobnobbed and the rest, as they is history. She presided over the Lotus Club for over 10 years and today decades later it is considered an elite club on its own.
The Cochin Port-building feat was carefully recorded by Robert Bristow in his book the Cochin Saga. But for his engineering prowess, today’s Kochi, Willingdon Island and the Naval Base would never have happened.
Visited the Ave Nightclub at Dream Hotel Cochin and discovered that trance music may work in Miami, but it does not work in Cochin for the many slightly predatory young men hanging out around the bar and watching the slightly odd antique film about Wimbledon playing on the screen. The only dancer was considered too drunk by the staff to be allowed to dance, even though his stoned movements were a joy to watch.
What they need to do is employ staff who look like they are really enjoying themselves and are bopping a little and play cool Bollywood trance music then maybe the place will jive.