Giving a shot in the arm for the state’s tourism sector, the seaplanes will make their debut, and take off from a tourist spot in the state in 2013. Pawan Hans, the national helicopter company, has made a pre-feasibility study of the ambitious project, identifying the possible tourist spots in the state.
“Supporting the initiative, the state government will allow a concession in the aviation turbine fuel (ATF) tax and follow an open sky policy,” said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy while attending the Kerala Seaplane Project Interested Operators Conference as part of ‘Emerging Kerala 2012’ on Thursday. The government will not charge the operators for the first three years, till the sector is developed, and a sum of `12 crore has been earmarked for the infrastructure development at the landing spots.
The twin-engine amphibious planes have a maximum capacity of 19 passengers. Apart from tourism, the planes can also be used for passenger transport and rescue operations.
The project aroused a high level of interest, with as many as 58 operators, including 34 registered participants, from across the globe attending the conference. “We will start with seven points - Ashtamudi, Kumarakom, Punnamada (Alappuzha), Munnar and Bolgatty, in addition to the airports here and in Thiruvananthapuram. We are going to follow a non-scheduled operation system in the initial stages,” said Tourism Secretary Suman Billa.
“There are 4 lakh tourists in Maldives availing of the seaplane facility each year. The potential in Kerala is higher, as the seaplanes can also be used for passenger transport. The state can avail of the night service as well,” said Jesper Hougaard, an expert in the field. The service changed the face of tourism sector in Maldives two decades ago.
“We have identified 22 tourist spots in addition to the three airports in the state for operating the seaplane in the pre-feasibly study. The feasibility study will be completed in the next three months,” said Sanjay Kumar, general manager(marketing) of Pawan Hans.
The proposed sites in the first phase include Poovar, Katinamkulam, Kappil in the south, Fort Kochi, Malampuzha, Mattuppetty, Thekkady, Idukki in the central region, and Bekkal and Banasura Sagar in the north, along with seven other spots.