Close on the heels of hogging the headlines with a cheeky tweet on the Karnataka poll results and later quietly deleting it, Kerala Tourism has swung into action to insulate the state’s Rs 29,000-crore tourism sector from political hartals (flash strikes and shutdowns). The idea is to ensure that these strikes, which are frequent in the state, don’t hit the revenue of the government and the thriving private tourism industry.
The tourism department’s tweet, which had gone viral over the clever play on the topical resort-politics, said: “After the rough and tumble of the #KarnatakaVerdict, we invite all the MLAs to unwind at the safe and beautiful resorts of God’s Own Country. #ComeOutAndPlay”.
“Its part of our campaign titled #ComeoutAndPlay and there’s nothing political about it,” quipped a top official of Kerala Tourism, in a lighter vein. In keeping with the playful air, the tweet went on to be retweeted, figured in news debates and was ‘liked’ by even Union ministers, till in an almost anticlimax the official handle of Kerala Tourism deleted it, without giving a reason.
Meanwhile, on the same day that the business-soliciting tweet was deleted, political parties in Kerala came out unanimously in favour of preventing hartals from being a big party pooper for the tourism industry. In an unusual display of developmental zeal over political colours, it was in response to a call from the BJP’s Alphons Kannanthanam, Union minister of state for tourism, that Kerala chief minister and CPI(M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan proposed that tourism should be given immunity from hartals.
The Congress had been earlier at the forefront in this campaign. Flash strikes often caught the tourists unawares and hartals were too frequent in Kerala, according to an all-party meet convened by the chief minister on Tuesday. Tourism should be treated as an essential service like hospitals, milk supply, etc, during hartals and tourists, tourist-vehicles and tourist institutions should be exempted from disruption of daily business by those who exhort for hartals, Vijayan said.
“It is tough to explain the flash strike that cause transportation issues to foreigners arriving at airports and chronically ill patients arriving on medical tourism. The earlier the term ‘hartal’ goes out of tourism lingo, the better,” said Baby Mathew, a resort owner and president, KTM, the public-private partnership that steers Kerala Tourism.