THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The reopening date of tourism destinations in the state will be decided after consultations with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the health department, Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran has said. "We want the reopening at the earliest. The decision will be taken at a meeting with the Chief Minister," he said.
The minister was speaking after reviewing the final stage work of the miniature train at Veli on Saturday. He also announced relief measures for tourist guides, house boats and homestays affected by the pandemic. A one-time financial assistance of Rs 10,000 will be given to 251 tourist guides accredited by the state tourism department and 77 persons recognised by the central tourism department. The government has sanctioned Rs 32.8 lakh for this.
"A maintenance grant will be given to houseboats under three slabs of Rs 80,000, Rs one lakh and Rs 1.20 lakh. The categorisation is based on the number of rooms in the boat. Applications have to be submitted before November 30. Rs 10 crore will be spent for giving assistance to around 1,000 houseboats. Only boats having valid registration with the Ports Department will be eligible for the aid.
The local self-government has recategorised the homestays from the commercial category to residential homestay category. This will help the homestays to pay a lesser amount as building tax. It will be applicable to homestays attached to the residence of the proprietor. Around 1,000 homestays will benefit from this.
The minister said that the miniature railway will present a memorable experience to visitors at the Veli backwater destination. The solar-powered train will take visitors for a two-km-long ride on the Pozhikkara backwater bank.
"The load test and trial run are progressing. It will be commisioned in a month's time," the minister said. A total of 48 persons, including two staff, can travel at a time. Bangalore-based San Engineering and Locomotive built the railway. The project cost is Rs nine crore.