Overcrowding a worry, state to study ‘carrying capacity’ of major getaways

World Tourism Organisation defines ‘tourism-carrying capacity’ as the maximum number of people that may visit a destination at the same time.
Huge rush of people at Fort Kochi .(File Photo)
Huge rush of people at Fort Kochi .(File Photo)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:   Sustainability seems to be the buzzword. Following the post-pandemic spurt in visitors to the state, the tourism department has launched a comprehensive study to ascertain the ‘carrying capacity’ of major destinations. This is expected to ensure long-term and sustainable measures to protect vulnerable destinations from ‘over tourism’ and to offer a better experience to visitors. 

The World Tourism Organisation defines ‘tourism-carrying capacity’ as the maximum number of people that may visit a tourist destination at the same time, without causing destruction of the physical, economic, socio-cultural environment and an unacceptable decrease in the quality of visitors satisfaction. In the first half of 2023, Kerala posted a 20.1% on-year jump in domestic tourists. 

Trivandrum College of Engineering was roped in to conduct the study, which is evaluating the Kovalam beach and ecologically vulnerable Varkala coastal cliffs. It will later cover major retreats including Thekkady, Munnar, Wayanad, Fort Kochi and Kumarakom. Varkala was chosen considering the challenge posed by its eroding cliffs.

Munnar & Wayanad among tourist spots that suffer from overcrowding

“The government is serious about the initiative. We have launched efforts to determine the carrying capacity at Varkala and Kovalam. Finding out the holding capacity of destinations will help assess water requirements, waste generation and management, vehicle volumes, parking facilities, hygiene and sanitation. We need to plan everything based on carrying capacity to make our destinations sustainable,” said Manoj Kumar K, MD of Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Ltd (KTIL).

He said modern technology can help manage crowds at destinations, where base camps with adequate facilities will be set up to ensure a hassle-free experience for tourists. “We will lose our destinations if we don’t do this now. The Varkala study will take two or three months,” he added. Destination challenge Tourism director P B Nooh said the effort is part of the state’s ‘Responsible Tourism’ initiative. “Managing destinations responsibly is key to sustainable tourism.

And assessing capacity has assumed importance as many of our destinations face overcrowding. The destination challenge was launched last year to promote lesser-known getaways. So far, 32 such projects are in different stages of implementation. Our aim is to encourage domestic tourists to explore these hidden gems so that crowding at major destinations will be reduced,” Nooh told TNIE. Munnar and Wayanad are among the destinations that suffer from overcrowding.

“This adversely affects the experience of tourists. We are launching an awareness campaign to sensitise stakeholders on why its important to assess carrying capacities and regulate visitors. We hope to come up with strategies by the next financial year. There will be more deliberations in this regard,” said Nooh. Emphasis will be on improving the tourist experience.

“The number of vehicles proceeding to a destination will need to be restricted depending on many parameters. Being stuck in traffic for three to four hours can spoil the experience of tourists,” he added. Assessing carrying capacity will help plan infrastructure requirements, said Sheik Ismail, president of the Tourism Professionals Club.

“To reduce crowding at destinations, the government should come up with more liberal policies so that stakeholders can plan attractive events and new products to woo visitors. Promoting lesser-known destinations as part of the destination challenge alone may not attract local visitors. Such destinations should be marketed with the help of private parties,” he stressed.

What is it?
World Tourism Organisation defines ‘tourism-carrying capacity’ as the maximum number of people that may visit a destination at the same time, without causing destruction of the physical, economic, socio-cultural environment

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com