THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: An early morning drive is a wonderful way to begin the holiday season, especially in Thiruvananthapuram, a melting pot of cultures. It is a place where history walks hand in hand with culture and traditions to a tourist’s delight. However, all is not well in the capital city if the tourist arrival trends are any indication. There is only a trickling in of foreign tourists.
Despite the city being blessed with cliffs and beaches, foreign tourists have been ditching the capital city for the past few years. This has happened despite the state capital being free of flood and other natural calamities during the last two years, while the rest of the state reeled under the impact of the worst flooding in its history. Yet, the tourist arrival in Thiruvananthapuram has seen a dip of over 20 per cent in the first three quarters of 2019.
Interestingly, Thiruvananthapuram was the only district which registered negative growth in foreign tourist arrival in 2019 (up to September). On the other hand, Idukki registered the highest growth of 62.95 per cent in the first nine months of 2019 and Wayanad registered the lowest at 1.79 per cent. In total when Kerala registered a growth of 4.84 per cent during this period, the capital had negative growth of 20.76 per cent.
Among the popular destinations, Kovalam witnessed the highest erosion of foreign tourists in the last three years (2016-18). If 1.6 lakh foreign tourists visited Kovalam in 2016, it dropped to 1.4 lakhs in 2018. So is the case with Varkala and Ponmudi, two popular destinations. On the contrary, Poovar registered a marginal growth, which is emerging as a beach destination in recent times but at the cost of Kovalam and Varkala.
According to tourism officials, tourist arrival failed to pick up despite the discovery of a treasure trove inside the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The fact is that beach destinations have almost reached its saturation point. To attract more tourists, there has to be a major makeover in the destinations during the coming days while maintaining its natural beauty, said a senior officer.
According to Martien Weber from Holland, who came to Kovalam in the 1980s and started a nature-friendly resort, the destination in the early years was a paradise. But now it has lost its charm: buildings have mushroomed everywhere, there is poor maintenance of basic amenities and infrastructure, apart from poor upkeep of beaches, he said.