Kerala will throw open its doors to domestic tourists within a few weeks. Infusing much enthusiasm into the travel sector, the Tourism Minister Mr.Kadakampally Surendran stated that Kerala will reopen its tourism sector to domestic tourists to time with the Onam celebrations, albeit adhering to strict COVID-19 protocol. With tourism in Kerala usually peaking from September to January, the decision to open up the travel destinations to domestic travellers will hopefully ease the devastating blow the tourism sector has suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Travel Industry Highly Optimistic
It is a return to the roots, according to Mr. Michael Dominic, CEO, CGH Earth Hotels and Resorts. "There is an immense interest among Indians to travel in India. It is a return to the roots, to rediscover India. There would be a surge to see India itself. Kerala has got a positive image in India and abroad on how our health sector handled COVID-19 and that will reflect positively," says Mr. Michael. While maintaining that Health Tourism may not take off until international borders remain closed, Mr. Michael says a lot of enquiries are popping up from the international community with health turning into a priority. "People are taking care of health now and that is a priority from them. There are a lot of enquiries from the international community, especially from Russia and travellers are ready to come. Once the restrictions are lifted, there will be a huge surge in health and wellness tourism," he adds.
According to Mr. Jibran Asif, Director, ABAD Hotels and Resorts, Kerala, the focus at the moment is on domestic tourists and crafting attractive packages to suit the needs of the travellers closeby. "The way forward is opening up the domestic markets. Once the markets open, Kerala will be on top of the list. We are getting a lot of enquiries and the positive news regarding the work of the health department in Kerala has further reassured the safety concerns of travellers," says Mr. Jibran. He further adds that once the international travel restrictions are lifted, tourism in Kerala will take off. "Once the restrictions are lifted, Ayurveda and Yoga will rule and Kerala will lead," he said.
There are also talks emerging from the industry on the need to have multi-pronged strategies and not to limit to a few sectors such as Health and Wellness Tourism. According to Mr. Dileep Kumar P.I., CEO, Intimice Hospitalities Pvt. Ltd., the biggest challenge is the difficultly to forecast the situation. "This is an unusual and unprecedented situation. These are all hypothesis and it may not translate into reality. After COVID, the new normal will be constantly changing. We can't analyse trends here. We should identify as many numbers of sectors in the tourism industry that will take off. It is a complicated situation and we shouldn't limit ourselves to a few sectors and should explore n number of sectors," says Mr. Dileep.
Chief Minister’s Tourism Loan Assistance Scheme
The Tourism Minister also announced tourism revival packages of up to Rs. 455 crore, under the banner of Chief Minister’s Tourism Loan Assistance Scheme. The Government of Kerala has sanctioned two loan schemes in a bid to support the state's travel and tourism sector. While entrepreneurs/establishments in the travel and tourism sector can opt for working capital loans to stay afloat, employees engaged in the industry can avail of short-term personal loans. Through this relief package, which was conceptualised by Kerala Tourism in association with the State Level Bankers' Committee (SLBC) and Kerala Bank, the Government of Kerala intends to help all the stakeholders of the industry tide over the current crisis and start functioning as soon as the pandemic is brought under control.
Tourism Working Capital Support Scheme
Tourism entrepreneurs / establishments can apply for a working capital loan of up to Rs. 25 lakhs, with the rate of interest computed as per the approved policy of the respective banks.
Tourism Employment Support Scheme
Employees engaged in the travel and tourism sector can apply for short-term personal loans of up to Rs.30,000/- from Kerala Bank (Kerala State Co-operative Bank) at an interest rate of 9 per cent.
With the peak tourism season in Kerala being September-January, the decision to open up the travel destinations to domestic travellers is expected to ease the devastating blow the tourism sector has suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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