THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: To attract tourists and promote overnight camping, the forest department is planning to explore the possibilities of caravan tourism in Ponmudi. The department also plans to set up 10 cottages at the hill station. However, both the proposals are in the planning stages. According to the officials, the forest department will soon approach the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment to take the projects to the next level.
“We can offer only day trips and trekking opportunities to visitors. Both the projects are in planning stages and more discussions will be held with higher authorities. Without clearance from the union ministry, we cannot go ahead with the projects. Caravan tourism has immense possibilities in Ponmudi as it won’t require much construction,” said an official of the forest department.
The tourism department has already launched caravan tourism in Kerala and the plan is to develop it on public-private-partnership mode with private investors, tour operators and local communities as key stakeholders.
An official of the department said they have invited Expression of Interest for launching caravan tourism in the district. “We haven’t received any proposals for Ponmudi yet. Caravan parks at designated areas need to be set up for overnight stays and Ponmudi has immense potential for caravan tourism. We might also explore caravan day tours. If the forest department or private parties come up with a proposal, we will extend our full support,” said the official.
Online booking from Friday
Thousands of tourists visit the Ponmudi Hill Station, forcing the authorities to bring in more restrictions to manage the footfall at the spot. With visitors increasing manifold during weekends, the forest department will introduce online booking from Friday. The officials hope to resolve the parking crisis and manage the crowding with the new initiative.
According to the department, the destination suffered a loss of `3 crore in the past two years due to the pandemic. “We will allow 1,500 slots everyday. People reaching the spot will also have to avail the slot online. Before the pandemic, we used to get an average of Rs 1 lakh revenue per day. When the lockdown got lifted, we started getting more visitors. One of the days, the footfall went up to 10,000, forcing us to start online booking,” said an official of the forest department.
The official said time restrictions will be introduced in the next phase. It will allow entry to more visitors. “We need more research for that. If we restrict the visiting time to two hours, we will be able to run more slots,” said the official.
How to book
Visitors can book the slots at www.keralaforest-ecotourism from Thursday onwards with online payment. Tourists have to keep the ticket on their phones or as printouts with them.
Ticket rates for visiting Ponmudi
- Adult: H40
- Child below 12 years old: H20
- Foreign adult: H300
- Foreign child: H225
- Two-wheeler: H20
- Three-wheeler: H30
- Light motor vehicle: H 40
- Medium motor vehicle: H80
- Heavy motor vehicle: H100
- Seetha Theertham (group of 10 for 3 hours ): H2,000
- Manachala (group of 10 or less for 6 hours): H3,500
- Maruthwamala (group of 10 or less for 6 hours): H3,500
- Varayadu Motta (group of 5 or less for 12 hours): H5,000