KOCHI: “I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.” -William Shakespeare
Innumerable are the weary souls that have seemingly imbibed the spirit of these lines from ‘As You Like It’ to soothe themselves in the lap of Kerala’s pristine locales. Going by sheer numbers, the state is a giant in the national tourism scene. Having tasted success with its tried and tested mode of tourism set on the pillars of relaxation and rejuvenation, Kerala tourism is all geared up to transform itself into an adventure zone. Target audience: ‘NewGen’.
The 13th annual conference of Adventure Tour Operators’ Association of India (ATOAI) held in Kumarakom recently was a step forward in that direction. For it was a first of its kind conference in south India in the 23 years since the formation of the platform.Among the top 100 ‘super brands’, the state aims to re-brand itself as ‘the land of adventure’. The move comes at a time when ATOAI has sent a proposal to the Union Tourism Ministry to declare 2018 as the “Year of Adventure Tourism in India” with the aim of positioning the country as the world’s adventure capital. The state - with a total revenue of Rs 38,000 crore from tourism as around 10.3 lakh foreign and 1.32 crore domestic tourists came visiting in 2016 - is trying to woo the younger generation by offering activity and water-based tourism.
“With our backwaters, houseboats and Ayurveda, we were having a good time with tourism aimed at relaxation,” said Tourism principal secretary V Venu on the sidelines of the ATOAI conference.
“Now, we want to transform ourselves into a destination for a younger crowd too. All parts of the state are suited for adventure tourism, especially northern Kerala as it has a lot of unexplored areas.”
Experts say the state - ranked among the fastest growing tourism industries in the country - has everything suited to achieve its goal as an adventure tourism destination.
“The state has a variety of destinations, except snow, needed for adventure tourism. Further, it has a 12-month season with a positive attitude favouring tourists. The services sector too is far better than any other state as you can get clean rooms at a cheaper price along with the luxurious ones. Then comes the adventure zone with waterfalls and wild life,” said Ajay Jain, a travel curator.
According to him, even if the state has a relatively poor connectivity of roads, the landscape is beautiful enough to overturn the handicap. Proximity to six airports - three within the state and the two (Mysuru and Bengaluru) in Karnataka and one in Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) - brings the tourist spots closer to any place in the world.
“Globally, adventure tourism - the fastest growing sector in tourism - is doing an annual business of $ 300 billion. All parts of India, especially Kerala, have huge potential for a giant leap in this sector because the attitudes of both people and the government are favourable, apart from other positives,” said Ajeet Bajaj, a veteran of adventure tourism and among the first Indians to have completed the Polar Trilogy which entails skiing to the North and South Poles and across Greenland.
Ernakulam yet to explore the high octane trail
Kochi:Though Ernakulam has the highest number of tourist arrivals annually, it lacks programmes to attract people looking for adventure. The involvement of different departments is delaying the implementation of projects, says a Tourism Department officer. “Land for such endeavours would be with the Forest Department. Often, there would be issues in sharing forest land for such initiatives. In several places, the Forest Department is promoting tourism projects,” the officer said.The DTPC proposal to start river rafting in Kothamangalam failed to take off a few years ago. Similar was the fate of beach buggies introduced by a private agency in Puthuvypeen in 2012 and the Tourism Department’s proposal for a rope way in Thattekkad-Boothathankettu.