The tourism industry, which is still reeling under the after effects of demonetization, had pinned its hopes on the state budget, to restore its halcyon days. However, no new projects were announced in the budget, which majorly focused on developing the existing schemes and ventures.
A major chunk of the allocation for tourism was earmarked for marketing ventures and infrastructural development of existing holiday spots and small-scale tourist destinations.
On the sidelines of Isaac’s budget presentation, K.V. Muraleedharan, president of the Kerala Association of Travel Agents, told Onmanorama that although the budget allocation for tourism is better than that of last year, it missed some key points that required immediate attention.
“The comparatively high accommodation rates and hotel rents are a stumbling block in the way of tourist inflow. India is one among those countries, where hotels and homestays charge extravagant rates. In the US, it costs only $100 per night to stay in a five-star hotel. In Kerala, the rates are so high that the tourists have a hard time finding affordable and quality accommodation.
“The only way to bring the rates down is by making the government tax rebate favorable to hoteliers. This will prompt them to bring down the rates, thereby attracting more customers. This will give the much-needed boost to our tourism industry,” he said.
Just like the previous budgets, this one too largely ignored the tourism development possibilities of Thiruvananthapuram district, he pointed out. Muraleedharan claimed that the changing governments failed to identify the potential of the Trivandrum International Airport.
“It takes less than two hours to fly between Maldives and Thiruvananthapuram, two sought-after travel destinations. But in order to attract travelers, the airport should ensure better facilities. It requires at least 20 acres of land to complete at least a section of the development process. The airport authority has the necessary fund, but they cannot take off the projects unless the government allocate the required plot.
“We already have three major airports. It is time to focus on smaller ones near major tourist hubs to make the locations easily accessible to travelers,” he said.
Talking about the funds earmarked for the development of smaller tourism destinations, Muraleedharan said that the primary focus should be on maintaining the existing facilities rather than shelling out on new establishments.
“The developmental activities done at various tourism hubs are not scientific. For instance, Kovalam has been losing its sheen due to the insensible encroachments happening there in the name of tourism. Likewise, various projects executed in the previous years to enhance the infrastructure of destinations such as Neyyar, Ponmudi and Veli, have either bitten the dust or tasted failure owing to lack of maintenance and follow up,” he said.