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 union Government of India has accepted the proposal to start a seaplane service in Kerala in principle. In the beginning, seaplane services will connect various tourist destinations like Kumarakom, Munnar, Ashtamudi, Punnamada, Bekal and Bolgatty from the airports of Trivandrum, Kochi and Kozhikode. At present Andaman and Nicobar island administration is successfully operating sea plane services.
Seaplane services will be a boon for tourists who are hard pressed for time as they can make the most of their available time by utilizing the faster transportation option of seaplanes. Apart from boosting tourism, sea plane services would also help a lot in opening up the lesser known tourist spots in Kerala for those who look for an off the beat sight seeing experience.
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.
Thiruvananthapuram: The fabled beach resort of Kovalam is all set to join the celebrity bandwagon of a few elite destinations in Kerala that have already introduced Responsible Tourism. Kumarakom was the pioneer in taking up this ground breaking decision followed by Thekkady and Wayanad, which have already launched this system on a trial basis.
The committee set up is trying to develop the all important link between the tourism industry and local entrepreneurship. A survey was conducted to monitor the consumption patterns of over 100 hotels that are located near the beach resort and a part of their requirements will be sourced from the local community. Home grown products such as vegetables and diary products shall be delivered to the hotels and Kudumbasree units would be playing a larger than life role in this initiative.
An agreement has already been inked to supply the local farm produce to some of the hotels in Kovalam to meet their needs. Apart from these, self help groups would also supply eco-friendly baskets and paper bags, thereby reducing the distressing impacts on the environment and social set up. It is aimed at improving the living standards of the host communities.
It also focuses on improving working conditions apart from involving the local populace in the decision-making process that affects their lives. The best part is that this initiative would involve the local community including the tour operators and nearby educational institutions in the promotion of eco friendly tourism.
Kochi: A great corporate get away is an ideal bet to chuck out the work pressures and to keep the team in good spirits. The team at Karma Kerala also took a cue from this popular holiday option when they charted out a great house boat cruise trip in the enchanting backwaters of Kumarakom.
Saturday, 26th April was the D-day and our team of 15 members set out by 9.30 am in a mini bus. The party mood was very much in the air as music and dance lend an air of celebration to the milieu as the vehicle hummed its way past the stunning coastal roads dotted with mangroves and backwaters. After over 2 hrs of drive, we disembarked at the Cheepunkal Jetty near Kumarakom.
We were excited to see our house boat laying in wait for us at the jetty. This full fledged single deck boat had all modern amenities including an air conditioned bedroom with an attached bath with all facilities like WC, shower bath, and high quality fittings like mirrors. The spacious living area in the front has comfortable sofas apart from the wooden sitting spaces that stretch all along the length of the boat in the model of the seating arrangements in a typical Kerala homestead.
The bedroom has beautiful wooden ceiling that gives the classic feel and richness. The glass windows were just right to steal a glance of the enchanting backwaters while traveling. The lighting in the living area of the houseboat is provided with dim bulbs fitted in hurricane lamps to add a retro twist and a romantic flair to the ambience.
The owner of the houseboat took time off his busy schedule to explain the attractions on either side of the backwaters including the fabled Kumarakom bird sanctuary and many hotels and resorts of some of the big names of the industry such as Kumarakom Lake Resort, Coconut lagoon, Raddison Plaza, Taj Garden Retreat , Golden Waters and Abad group among others. The traditional fishermen were easily picking up pearl spot fishes from the mud after driving the fish using ropes and nets; the fresh catch was being used in the house boat in preparing the culinary delights to be served to us.
Soon after the cruise started, we were offered the traditional Kerala breakfast of boiled tapioca, fish curry and fried clams. The boys were more interested in savoring the freshly tapped coconut toddy, which would be sweet like milk. The boat was seamlessly cutting across the water currents to reach the wider and deeper backwaters. The wind swept interiors offered a cool respite from the scorching sun outside, as songs, photo sessions and animated banters gave the interiors a distinct party feel.
The sumptuous lunch underscored by chicken dishes and the signature dish of pearl spot was well complemented by the vegetarian curries to make up a typical Kerala cuisine. After enjoying a breathtaking view of the sunset, we enjoyed a swim in the backwaters with most of us preferring to keep the swim suits on. The supper was rather heavy with chappathi and chicken after which an exciting game of rummy followed. The night was cool and pleasant and we enjoyed a sound sleep to the lullaby of nature.
At the crack of the dawn, we set out on fishing and we could even catch a few! By around 9am it was time for us to bid adieu to this enchanting place and the majestic floating abode, which offered some of the happiest moments in all our lives.
As they say all good things must come to an end; so did our wonderful trip; but, not before offering a relaxing weekend to enable us all to face the Monday Morning madness with enhanced vigor.
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is gearing up to play host to the international conference on responsible tourism scheduled for March 21-24. Organized by the Kerala Tourism and the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (India), it is a follow up of the first Responsible Tourism Conference held in Cape Town in 2002.
Over 400 Indian and foreign delegates fro over 20 countries including those from Britain, Germany, Gambia, South Africa, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bhutan are expected to participate. Many topics of common interest such as local economic development, poverty reduction and sustainability are expected to come up for discussion. Kerala was chosen as the venue for this prestigious conference in recognition of the state’s initiatives on responsible tourism. The conference might go a long way in spreading awareness among the local populace, tour operators and hoteliers to be more responsible. In addition it might also help them to keep abreast with the changing trends and practices all over the world. Many noted personalities such as Harsh Varma, Fiona Jeffrey, Renton de Alwis and Hiran Cooray are expected to participate.
Participants will also be visiting many home stays, farms and heritage sites during the conference. Some of the tourist destinations featured include Kumbalangi, Fort Kochi, Kumarakom and Mattancherry among others. This international seminar would help to notch up the popularity of Kerala as a global tourist destination in the days to come.