Irrespective of the implications and fallout of the Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from the Wayanad constituency besides the family pocket borough of Amethi, the tourism industry in Kerala is viewing it as an opportunity.
Even as squabbles over the Sabarimala issue and a series of trade shutdowns have acted as a deterrent to domestic tourist arrivals in the God’s Own Country, the VVIP candidate has inadvertently opened an window of opportunity for the `36,528-crore Kerala tourism industry.
“It is a win-win situation for Wayanad, as within a day it has become one of the top searched words in Google. The national attention on a potential PM candidate could enrich its destination development in short term,” says EM Najeeb (senior VP of IATO and president of the Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry). “In the long term, it might also help in the infrastructure development of the flood-ravaged district,” he told FE.
Along with the celebrity candidate what helps is the recent commercial opening of the Kannur International Airport and its link flights to the Kozhikode airport from last week.
Conventionally, May is the peak domestic tourist season for Wayanad. This year, poll season business in April is expected to make good the last year’s slowdown due to Nipah outbreak and the floods. In 2018, tourist arrivals went up by 9.35 lakh, logging a meagre 5.93% growth.
“The candidature would serve as a much-needed fillip to tourism, as leaders and media delegations will perk up footfalls in resorts and hotels in Wayanad,” says CP Shylesh, secretary of the Wayanad Tourism Organisation. An adventure, wildlife and farm destination, Wayanad has been slowly building up its reputation as a holiday getaway for IT professionals in Bengaluru and Mysore. The district has around 60 resorts with 1,200 rooms and as many as 3,000 rooms in hotels and home-stays.
Resort owners might be enthused at Wayanad figuring as Rahul’s second constituency, but cops in Kerala are not. Besides being a vacation hotspot, Wayanad figures among the Maoist insurgency belts in Kerala.
Trained anti-Naxalite forces and Thunderbolt commandos of the state police were on their toes as Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination papers on Thursday and held a big road show.