KOCHI: The interim Union Budget presentation on Thursday saw Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing an increased infrastructure outlay to boost travel and tourism, with Lakshadweep being singled out for special attention.
While tourism stakeholders in Kerala hailed the move, saying it would also boost the state’s tourism prospects, they also cautioned that the decision might lead to overcrowding as seen in island tourist destinations like the Maldives, causing the spots to lose their pristine nature. Tourism expert Jose Dominic termed the development of infrastructure like the extension of the runway at Agatti airport in Lakshadweep a good thing.
“The runway is very short prompting curbs on the carrying capacity of ATR planes that conduct service to the island. Due to the restrictions, flight operators charge double than what they would for the same distance elsewhere as fare,” Jose said, adding that once the runway is lengthened, more tourists will flock to the islands.
Kerala Travel Mart president Jose Pradeep too welcomed the outlay for Lakshadweep and termed it a blessing in disguise for Kerala.
“Once infrastructure development takes place in the islands, people who go to Maldives or other island destinations will start preferring Lakshadweep. And since it is very close to Kerala, people going there will include the state in their itinerary,” he said. M P Sivadathan of Kerala Home Stay and Tourism Society, said the same. “Kochi will benefit greatly. And through Kochi, other parts of Kerala will get attention too. Lakshadweep and Kerala offer different natural scenes to tourists. This will spark curiosity in tourists using Kochi as a transit and prompt them to explore Kerala too,” he said.
However, the stakeholders said care needed to be taken to ensure the development doesn’t take place at the cost of the islands’ natural beauty.
Referring to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’ recent visit to Lakshadweep, Jose said, “The PM was highlighting the pristine nature of the islands by walking barefoot on the beach and diving into the crystal clear lagoon. However, if development works aren’t planned properly, all this will be lost,” he said, adding that earlier, the carrying capacity of Bangaram Islands was calculated as 100.
“However, once flights and ships start coming following the development of infrastructure, more people will flock the place and this might burden the island’s ecosystem. When we compare Maldives and Lakshadweep, we should note that the former has more islands,” Jose said.
Infra devpt welcomed
Extension of runway at Agatti airport in Lakshadweep will be beneficial
Will lead to more people choosing Lakshadweep over the Maldives or other island destinations
Kochi as a transit spot will benefit greatly