Trade union hartal call hits Kerala tourism industry
Large-scale cancellation of bookings in hotels trigger panic
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The tourism industry in the state is staring at large-scale cancellation of bookings in the wake of the two-day national strike announced by trade unions on March 28 and 29. Among the cancellations is a package of 35 cottages at an Alappuzha resort where a Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company had planned its annual conference.
In Kerala, unlike most other states, normal life almost comes to a standstill, during every nationwide trade union strike. Union leaders in the state have already asked people to keep vehicles off the road and to shut shops and other establishments for 48 hours.
The state-run KSRTC will not operate a single service as the employees’ unions have served strike notices to the management. Traders are scared to open shops in the wake of the advice by union leaders. The chief minister is yet to respond to a request by the Kerala Travel Mart Society, a forum of tourism entrepreneurs, to exempt the tourism industry from the strike. The Travel Mart president, prominent entrepreneur Baby Mathew, said the industry is witnessing cancellations by both international and domestic travellers.
“The strike comes at a time when international arrivals are picking up. Domestic travellers form a major chunk of the cancellations,” he said. Currently, foreign travellers are mostly from France, Germany, Kazakhstan and Switzerland, he added. Abraham George, a former Travel Mart president and a prominent entrepreneur, said strikes rob precious hours from the vacation of a traveller.
“The previous tourism minister used to arrange police escort for tourist movement. We appreciate the gesture. Still, imagine the plight of a tourist who has to travel as if in a war zone. Will it help create a good impression on the destination?” he asks.
Abraham said the “exemption” was sought as it would help transport tourists over short distances. He said strikes would affect Kerala’s internationally-renowned Responsible Tourism initiative that attracts travellers from across the globe.
“A total shutdown will spoil the charm of Responsible Tourism as travellers won’t be able to enjoy rural life. Travelling on a boat, dining in a local restaurant, visiting a local market or joining the rural folk in coir or craft making or fishing are among the highlights of the initiative,” he said.
At a glance
Tourism is a significant contributor to the economy of the state with Rs 45,019 crore as earnings in 2019, according to the Economic Review 2021. The sector provides employment to 1.5 million people directly and indirectly. The estimated loss to the tourism industry due to the pandemic in 2020-21 was Rs 20,000 crore, says the Economic Review