Thiruvananthapuram: With the inflow of visitors to tourist spots across Kerala drying up in the wake of coronavirus scare, those associated with the tourism industry in the coastal state remain hopeful of bouncing back, just as they did after the devastating floods in 2018.
After the floods, Kerala tourism had bounced back to register 17.2 per cent rise in tourist (domestic and foreign) arrivals, with the figure touching 1.96 crore in 2019.
Jose Pradeep, secretary of Kerala Travel Mart (KTM), told IANS that tourism industry worldwide had been badly hit by coronavirus scare and Kerala was no exception.
"In February and March, we get a good number of tourists from the Far East and South Africa. As Kerala reported its first coronavirus case in January, things began to turn bad. Today, when our tourist destinations should register about 80 per cent hotel occupancy, the current figure is zero. With India now suspending visas till the middle of next month, nothing more needs to be said," said Pradeep.
KTM is the single biggest tourism event that brings together entrepreneurs from Kerala who offer tourism products and services, including tour operators, hotels, resorts, home stays, houseboats, ayurveda resorts and cultural art centres, on to a single platform and facilitates meetings and interactions with buyers from around the world.
This event, organized every two years in partnership with Department of Tourism, was slated for September 24 to 27.
Pradeep said he hoped that things will be fine in two to three weeks.
"We are hopeful that we will attract domestic travellers since people in our country travel despite such happenings. We are certain that domestic tourists would rather spend their holidays in Kerala and not venture to Europe or the Far East. We are all hoping that Kerala Tourism will bounce back and our hope is placed on more domestic tourists," Pradeep added.
A look at the figures reveal that the total number of tourists who arrived in Kerala in 2019 included 1,83,84,233 domestic and 11,89,771 foreigners. In 2018, the number was 1,56,04,661 domestic and 10,96,407 foreigners. The growth rate was 17.81 per cent for domestic and 8.52 per cent for foreign travellers.
Sudheesh Kumar, who owns a plush resort closest to the famed Kovalam beach, said that the current situation vis-a-vis coronavirus outbreak was "scary" as their occupancy had come down to mere 10 per cent, when it should be above 60 per cent.
"Kerala tourism industry, however, need not feel that bad. Tourists are now well aware of how Kerala handled Nipah in the past. You just wait and see -- tourists will return in good numbers, once things cool down as they have faith in Kerala and the way it has handled health emergencies," said Kumar.
Tomy Pulikattil, who owns eight houseboats on Vembanad lake that travel between famed Kumarakom and Alappuzha destinations, said just 25 per cent of the 1,000 houseboats in the area were doing business at present.
"We are watching how things pan out. We would like to remain positive that things will return to normal as our state will bounce back. Those who know Kerala will return as soon as things are normal," said Pulikattil.