Can motorhomes give a boost to Kerala’s declining tourism sector?

The last time Kerala Tourism came up with something innovative was in the mid-1980s when it introduced houseboats to the backwaters of the state. That and the alluring slogan “God’s Own Country” was an instant tourist magnet drawing millions of tourists to the state. Now, 35 years later, Kerala Tourism is again trying to revive the industry with a unique product.

He introduced caravan tourism using motorhomes to revive the pandemic-hit industry. The “Caravan Tourism” project has two components: caravans and caravan parks. A super luxury vehicle that offers travel, food, recreation and accommodation in caravan parks. The vehicle will have a bedroom, a kitchenette with refrigerator, a microwave oven, a toilet cubicle with shower and sufficient fresh water storage. The vehicle will also have an audio/video installation, Internet connectivity and GPS.

The tourism department has offered a grant of Rs 7.5 lakh for the first 100 caravans, Rs 5 lakh each for the next 100 and Rs 2.5 lakh each for another 100 caravans. Specially designated caravan parks will provide parking spaces for the vehicle and other infrastructure.

The tourism department hopes this will open up opportunities for tourists to visit accessible but unexplored places in the state. The initiative is designed to make tourism a sustainable activity that would bring benefits to local communities and also increase opportunities for the industry.

PA Tourism Minister Mohammed Riyas said the first caravan park in Vagamon, an exotic hilly destination in Kottayam district, will be launched by the end of the month.

“In the post-pandemic situation, it may take months to normalize global tourism with foreign travelers visiting Kerala. So we chartered alternative plans to encourage domestic tourism; caravan tourism is one of them,” Riyas told India Today.

Kerala tourism has lost an estimated Rs 45,000-50,000 crore during the pandemic years, pushing many tour operators into a debt trap. The industry has been grappling with one crisis after another since 2018, starting with megafloods and the Nipa outbreak.

The department has already designed the caravan tourism policy guidelines and launched a call for applications for the establishment of caravan parks in exotic locations from local authorities, other departments and private partners last October.

“We had brainstorming sessions with industry stakeholders and experts on how to revive the industry. The state also announced forfeits and loan moratoriums for tour operators. Tourism has been a lifeline of Kerala’s economy and has contributed a lot to the development of the state. Finally, we decided to launch a new Caravan Touring product and the response has been excellent. About 154 individuals and tour operators have expressed interest in operating over 300 caravans across Kerala. We received 100 proposals from 67 individuals and institutions to create caravan parks,” the minister said.

According to him, the project will ensure the safety of travelers and provide a unique experience of traveling in caravan luxury, staying in caravan parks in exotic settings. It will also include “Village Life Exploration Packages” powered by the Kerala Responsible Tourism Mission.

“Our attempt is to develop unexplored destinations across the state, encourage local and neighboring people to explore Kerala and inspire confidence in the industry,” the minister said.

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