THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:If all goes well, the much sought-after tourist hubs of Kovalam, Ponmudi and Varkala as well as Aakulam in the city will get a facelift in a few months’ time.
A comprehensive development and beautification plan for the prominent tourist destinations in the district was unveiled by Tourism Minister A P Anil Kumar here on Thursday.
The proposed plan is multi-pronged, addressing basic infrastructure development, garbage management and beautification of neglected spots in these hubs.
The Tourism Minister told mediapersons here that the government was committed to realise the conversion of Kovalam into a world class destination, while initiating concrete steps for making it a garbage-free zone. Sanction had been accorded for a drinking water supply scheme with an outlay of Rs 15 crore. In cooperation with the local panchayat, a sewage treatment plant will be installed in the belt.
As part of the beautification drive, the stretch from Chakka to Kovalam will be given spruced up under a private-public participation project. One of the notable moves related to Kovalam will be the immediate beautification of ‘Idakkallu’ protruding to the charming beach, in an ecofriendly way, inclusive of biofencing in stretches of the rocky area. A sum of Rs 50 lakh had been sanctioned for the work.
‘’It will be a landscaping and rock garden project,’’ said architect G Shankar, who will be guiding the initiative. A sum of Rs 3 crore has been sanctioned for the development of Crafts Village at Kovalam.
Steps have been initiated to the facilities at Ponmudi, the minister said. The old guest house under the Tourism Department will be dismantled and a new one will be constructed in ethnic architectural style with 24 rooms and modern amenities.
A tourist facilitation centre comprising a mini-conference hall and relaxation corner will be set up in the upper sanatorium area. For the first phase of development planned in the area, an amount of Rs 5 crore had been sanctioned.
At Varkala, there are plans for protection of rare and unique laterite cliff area rimming the beach, landscaping, lighting, modernising of the existing helipad etc. A sum of Rs 1.36 crore had already been sanctioned for development works, he said.
In an attempt to tap the potential of backwater tourism, the Kappil Boat Club nearby will be activated and luxury boat cruises will be launched to Hariharapuram, the minister said. Plans are also underway to develop new destinations at the picturesque Arivalam and Rathikkal areas also.
To promote domestic tourism and exploit the tourism potential of the Aakulam area, a beautification and edutainment drive has been conceived at a cost of Rs 3.59 crore. Parallel to the ongoing cleaning up of the highly polluted lake under the Irrigation Department, the modernisation of the swimming pool, park and musical fountain will be taken up.
A cycle track and walkway at a length of 325 metres will be laid. The Boat Club will be modernised and boat services will also be launched soon, the minister said. All the projects will be completed within a year, he said.
Tourism director Rani George, who was also present, said that contrary to popular belief and despite problems like global recession and the slowdown in the arrival of chartered flights, as per statistics Kerala’s tourism sector had done well in this season also
‘’Compared to 6.5 lakh international tourists in 2010-11, Kerala received 7.3 lakh tourists this year. In the case of domestic tourist arrivals also, the figures stood at 93 lakh as against last year’s 85 lakh. With regard to foreign exchange earnings, there has been a 11.18 per cent growth and the final earnings is expected to be Rs 4221 crore. The total revenue earnings had also registered a growth of 9.7 per cent, at Rs 11,037 crore,’’ she said.
‘’One-fourth of the international tourist arrivals were from the United Kingdom, which continues to contribute to Kerala’s tourism in a big way,’’ she added.
However, the minister admitted that tourist arrivals in the Thekkady-Munnar circuit had been badly hit in the season for various reasons. ‘’A road show and a big campaign is planned in the Gulf region for promotion of Kerala tourism,’’ he said.