Papanasam beach near Thiruvananthapuram on a prayer for tourism resurrection

Normally, tourism season in Varkala stretches from November to May, but the picturesque location is almost empty with only a few visitors and most of the shops and resorts remain closed these days.

Published: 15th March 2021 03:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th March 2021 02:14 PM   |  A+A-

A deserted look of Papanasam beach near Varkala in Thiruvananthapuram. (Photo| BP Deepu, EPS)

A deserted look of Papanasam beach near Varkala in Thiruvananthapuram. (Photo| BP Deepu, EPS)

Express News Service

It is believed that a dip in the pure waters of the Varkala beach, located about 10 km from Varkala town, can rid the body of impurities. No wonder it enjoys the name, Papanasam beach. The beach is also important for Hindus as offerings for departed souls are made here.

Normally, tourism season in Varkala stretches from November to May, but the picturesque location is almost empty with only a few visitors and most of the shops and resorts remain closed these days. Despite the pandemic scare, the beach, one of the best tourist destinations in Thiruvananthapuram, was reopened for the public on November 1 last year.

Since no foreign tourists are arriving in the country, only domestic tourists visit the beach now. Tourism season has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown. Only a few cafes and small shops, most of them owned by people from Kashmir and Rajasthan, selling handicrafts, apparels and souvenirs on the way to the beach are open.

"Now, there is no season or foreign tourists. The state government could do nothing as the pandemic has hit across the globe," said Vinod, a resident and employee of a homestay.

He said the Left government made remarkable contributions to the development of the tourism sector. He used to be at the beach in the morning in search of customers for his homestay. Graffiti of the LDF candidate seeking votes on walls of private compounds along the road greet people.

Though Varkala is considered a Left bastion as a majority of local bodies are under its rule for long, Congress had been winning the assembly seat till 2016. LDF, which wrested the seat last time, is confident of retaining it. Vinod exuded confidence in this regard saying that the government has done everything it can amid the challenges of the flood, Nipah outbreak and current COVID-19 spread. 

Local vendors have been the worst affected due to the lockdown. Sajeevan, a Varkala native, who eked out a living by renting out umbrellas and beds to tourists visiting the beach, has now turned into a tender coconut seller.

"The umbrellas and beds were rented out for Rs 200. Before the pandemic, foreign travellers used to visit the beach in the morning to take a dip and spend time here until noon. Now, only those who have arrived in the district on job visas and are involved in business here come to take bath. So, I started selling tender coconuts. Now, I earn Rs 300-400 per day," Sajeevan said.

The situation is not different for Mujeeb, who imparts training in surfing at the beach. The southern side of the beach is known as the 'surfers' paradise. "I used to rent out the surfing boards for Rs 300 and impart training for Rs 1,500. Foreign tourists comprised the major chunk of customers. Only domestic tourists trickle in now and the business is very bleak," said Mujeeb.

He said that the crisis faced by people in the tourism and allied sector will be over only if foreigners start visiting the place as they spend more money. Rahman (54), a lifeguard on duty, was seen watching tourists moving along the shore. He directed a foreign woman who was taking a dip not to go further since the sea was rough.

"Foreigners are polite and obey instructions but the domestic tourists are careless about their safety. We are forced to do duty in consecutive shifts these days as only domestic tourists are visiting the beach. We hope the next government will consider our plight. For the past 30 years, I have been working on daily wages," said Rahman, a native of Chilakkoor near Varkala.



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