If you look at the weak links Kerala has as a tourist destination, high on the list are hartal, garbage and mobility. Between the three, it looks like the lowest hanging fruit is hartal. In the last ‘pothupanimudakku’ (general strike) on April 2, Kerala came to a virtual standstill. Some slight solace was tourists could travel to their hotels or to the airport. On Monday, there’s another hartal call. The big beneficiary is always Bevco as when liquor queues become serpentine the day before the hartal.
We fully endorse, support and go with ‘Responsible Tourism’ as the strategy for growth and development of tourism in our wonderful state. The fundamental premise of ‘Responsible Tourism’ is a great place to live is a great place to visit, to work in, to invest in, and more. Hartals make a place miserable to live in. And the woes of the tourist who happens to be visiting when there is hartal are unimaginable.
Against Monday’s hartal, there is an announcement by merchants, bus operators, hotels and restaurants that their member establishments will work. There is thus traction building up for the declaration for a loud ‘NO’ to this hartal and most importantly all future hartals. We must all join in to defeat Monday’s hartal and all future hartals. Let us all go about our lives normally ignoring the hartal call. We respectfully tell the callers of general strikes that we respect your right to protest and not go to work. But you must respect our right not to partake in the strike and instead to go to work or go about our lives normally.
The next low hanging fruit is garbage and we can begin to act to end the menace. While we demand our government and local bodies to make our cities garbage-free, we should also offer our efforts individually as well by the enterprises that we are connected to make Kerala clean again. Finally, all that we may have achieved will come to naught if we allow our state to come to a halt because our roads have become non-functional. Harnessing public transport is the only way our highways can become functional again. Else, we are hurtling down the way Bengaluru went. If Bengaluru as a city is fast becoming unliveable despite its IT miracle, the day is not far when Kerala as a destination will become unvisitable despite its attractiveness.
Jose Dominic, CEO of CGH Earth Group and former member of National Tourism Advisory Council