KOCHI: The state tourism sector employing 10 lakh directly and another 15 lakh indirectly was the prime casualty of the liquor policy of the previous UDF government.
With the LDF ministry reportedly fine-tuning the new liquor policy, to be announced after the Malappuram by-election, the severely hit tourism industry hopes the flaws will be rectified.
“Kerala as a tourist destination has lost out in the last 2-3 years after it was announced only five-star hotels will serve liquor,” said CGH Earth Group CEO Jose Dominic. “The Kerala model of tourism went for a toss.”
The new policy has affected the likes of CGH Earth, which was attracting tourists by marketing the state’s unique tourism model. “At one-stroke, Kerala became a 5-star hotel based tourism destination, which the state never was, and never will be,” said Dominic.
He said Sri Lanka, Rajasthan and Goa have benefitted from the state’s liquor policy, which drove away foreign tourists. MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) and wedding-based tourism also suffered big time.
The Association of Approved and Classified Hotels of Kerala has submitted a wish list to the government. It includes:
Allow liquor licence to all classified and approved hotels paying a luxury tax of minimum Rs 6 lakh per annum. Permit liquor to be served in licensed premises from 11 am to midnight instead of 6 am to 10 pm.
Allow liquor to be served in multiple restaurants, banquet halls, poolside and rooftop of hotels, resorts and bars without additional fees. Reduce the one-day licence fee to Rs 10,000 and introduce online licences.
Grant beer/wine licence to classified and approved restaurants at a lesser fee.
The most significant suggestion by the industry is to promote a ‘Kerala brand liquor’ (manufactured by the government) made from toddy, fruit and sugarcane similar to beverages made in Sri Lanka and China. “This will definitely help in creating employment and revenue to the state,” said association president G Gopinath.
Earlier this year, the Association of British Travel Agents in its Travel Trends Report 2017 placed Kerala in the eighth position in the top 12 destinations to visit this year ahead of South Africa, Vietnam and the US. But things are not rosy on the ground. “Unless a tourism-friendly liquor policy is announced, we are doomed,” said an industry veteran.