KOCHI: While Kerala was never envisioned as a hedonistic destination, the previous government’s Excise policy restricting liquor to five-star hotels, in its own way , undid the basis of the state’s tourism industry built on a unique model fitting in well with what is now called ‘responsible tourism’. Tourism was creating livelihoods and jobs - a Central-government study commissioned in the state learnt one in four jobs came from this sector - particularly in the small and medium sector with small resorts, houseboats, home and farm stays, and small Ayurveda and Yoga centres.
“As opposed to employees in foreign attire serving Indo-Chinese food in hotels set in modern buildings, local entrepreneurs built or remodelled cottages in local styles, served local Malayali food and hired local youth,” said Jose Dominic, CEO of the CGH Earth chain, which pioneered ecologically sustainable tourism in the state. “It was an extraordinary success which in a short time enabled high room occupancy and revenue.”
He said the liquor policy was a slap in the face for the Malayali entrepreneur and sent a completely wrong signal. Entrepreneurs found they had to chase the five-star label which is large-scale, located in cities and what can be called anonymous and faceless. While as far as the new age ‘Alert Independent Traveller’ is concerned, the most desired location is the backwaters and rural Kerala.
Retired British lawyer Peter Wilde, holidaying in Mararikulam, said this rule just means he has to cycle out of the resort to get alcohol and drink in his room, rather than in a social atmosphere with other vacationers. “Also, the hotel and government loses out on profits and taxes,” said Peter, who has been coming to the state for the past nearly 20 years and holidays in Kerala four times a year with wife Judith. “Stopping tourists from having a drink only makes us think twice about coming here. It doesn’t stop problems like domestic violence or other mischief. The earlier policy was a bit indiscriminate.”
Now, the industry is hoping for more positive change with Alphons Kannanthanam’s appointment as Union Minister of State for Tourism.