Hike in user fee at Thiruvananthapuram airport hurting tourism in southern dists

50% hike in fees makes pilgrim tourism circuits, tourist destinations, MICE tourism expensive
Thiruvananthapuram international airport
Thiruvananthapuram international airportFile Photo

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The drastic hike in user development fee (UDF) at Trivandrum International Airport, run by Adani, is set to significantly impact the travel and tourism industry in the southern districts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari.

Thiruvananthapuram international airport
Thiruvananthapuram airport hikes user fee; will impact passenger traffic, say experts

The Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) recently hiked the airport’s user fee by more than 50%, making the pilgrim tourism circuits, tourism destinations and MICE tourism very expensive. This hike comes as a heavy blow to the industry, which is already struggling to stay afloat.

Kanyakumari, which recently gained more prominence following a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kovalam, Poovar, Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Varkala and many destinations in Kollam district which draw significant numbers of both domestic and international visitors, are expected to be impacted.

E M Najeeb, president of the Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry, said the hike is absolutely unacceptable and would adversely impact tourism. “There is no increase in user fee at Kochi airport and such a huge hike in user fee here will indirectly divert passengers from here, especially people who are travelling with families to Kochi. This move will also torpedo the importance and growth of the airport in the state capital. Flight and passenger numbers, that doubled in the last one year, will now start declining,” Najeeb told TNIE.

He said airfares in Thiruvananthapuram are already high and because of the economic crisis worldwide, even a slight rise in charges will adversely impact the tourism industry here.

As per the new tariff order, domestic and international passengers will have to pay Rs 770 and Rs 1,540 (excluding taxes) in user fee till March 2025. Besides this, UDF has also been introduced for arrivals -- Rs 330 for domestic and Rs 660 for international passengers.

Many industry insiders feel that without competitive airfares, tourism will not pick up in the southern districts.

Anish Kumar P K, the executive committee member of Association of Tourism Trade Organisations India (ATTOI), said that competitive airfares are the key to wooing more tourists. “Though more flights were introduced at Trivandrum airport, the airfares are yet to be competitive. The rise in user fee will only add to the woes. For example, Sabarimala pilgrims coming from Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu will compare the airfares and nobody will want to book tickets to Trivandrum. It’s a heavy blow to the industry,” he said.

The Trivandrum Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) has already taken the matter up with MPs of the region, urging them to take it up with the AERA. “We have given letters to all the MPs – Adoor Prakash, Shashi Tharoor, N K Premachandran, and Anto Antony. We have approached Kanyakumari MP Vijay Vasanth as well. We are trying to resolve the issue and Premachandran has taken it up as he has some influence in the AERA. If we don’t find a solution with the help of MPs, TCCI has decided to take the issue to the High Court,” said S N Raghuchandran Nair, president.

He said that the revised user fee hasn’t resulted in any drastic rise in airfares. However, industry stakeholders say that’s because of the off season. Once the season sets in, airfares will go through the roof, they add.

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