The tourism sector of Kerala, already reeling under pressure in the wake of the Nipah virus outbreak in the state, received another jolt when the recent torrential rain resulted in floods.
“Kerala, which is generally one of the hotspots for both domestic and international tourists, has had a bad time these last few months. First it was the Nipah virus (though it was confined to certain parts of North Kerala) that affected the domestic tourism season of May and June, and now it is the devastation caused by the floods,” said Kapil Goswamy, managing director, Trans India Holidays.
“During the monsoon season (July, August and September), Kerala normally gets a good number of domestic tourists, a small number of international tourists, and a significant number of Ayurveda or wellness seeking international tourists. The last month or so have unfortunately, been a washout for tourism, and even though the situation is improving now, it will be a few months before we see any upswing in tourism numbers,” he added.
Access to many of the tourism destinations like Munnar, Idukki and Periyar has been severely affected because of the worst floods in a century in the state. Kerala’s busiest and biggest airport in Kochi has been shut from August 16 and will be opened on August 29.
GDP generated by the state is expected to fall to 6.5-7 per cent from the budgeted 7.6 per cent this fiscal year, according to a report by Care Ratings. The tourism and hospitality sector contributes 40 per cent of the state’s GDP.
“The ongoing floods will have a deep impact on the tourism business to Kerala and everybody will wait for the situation to improve. The tourists who had booked their tours for the coming few months will definitely either change the destination or postpone their visit. This all depends on the situation after the flood water recedes and the situation becomes clearer,” said Arun Anand, managing director, Midtown Travels.
Tour operators have already started receiving cancellations. “From international markets we are experiencing cancellations from travellers booked during the months of late September to November, and from the domestic market there are hardly any queries for travel to Kerala during the coming months. All of us in the tourism industry hope that Kerala recovers soon,” added Goswamy.
Despite the devastation wrecked by the floods, Kerala-based EM Najeeb, senior vice president, Indian Association of Tour Operators, remains positive for the coming inbound season prospects.
“Our expectations are still high and our outlook of a productive season is intact despite many challenges. The tourism industry feels that the season would go normal without much damage, unless there are last-minute cancellations closer to the season,” he said.
Some tour operators see an opportunity to combine Kerala with neighbouring states in their tour packages. “The situation in Kerala calls for a greater innovation and efforts to sell the destination. We have to include other states or innovate with itineraries and ensure to convince international tourists to place their trust in this region, but we are determined to sell Kerala and support are partners there,” said Rajat Singhal, director, Leisure World Tours.