According to State Tourism data, domestic arrivals fell by 72.86% in 2020 from the year before that (2019), and international arrivals have also reduced significantly by 71.36%.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shattered Kerala’s tourism industry. The tourism sector alone employs about 15 lakh people and contributes 11.5 per cent of the state’s GDP. From the hill stations of Munnar and Wayanad to the backwaters of Alappuzha, tourism in Kerala has taken a severe hit due to the pandemic. The total earnings of the sector, which in 2019, stood at Rs 45,010 crore is now only Rs 11,000 in 2020–earned during the months of January to March, before the pandemic struck the world and mid-November onward, when the restrictions eased after first wave of covid, as reported in IE.
As per the state officials reveals that both domestic and international arrivals have fallen short this time of the year. According to State Tourism data, domestic arrivals fell by 72.86 per cent in 2020 from the year before that (2019), and international arrivals have also reduced significantly by 71.36 per cent. The first three months of this year, before fears of the third wave loomed over, the state recorded a 40.53 per cent decline in domestic and 95.65 per cent decline in international arrivals compared to the same period last year (2020).
Sharing the ordeal, Sanjeev Kumar Nair, Kochi-based tourism consultant, says that many properties are up for sale with most of the properties having loan liability. Even though they are not operational, some staff have to be there for the regular upkeep of those properties,’ Nair reported as saying to IE.
The time between December-January did bring a little respite, stated Tomy Pulickattil All Kerala Houseboat Owners Association representative. He further added that many of them had to spend Rs 5 lakh- Rs 8 lakh to re-launch since the houseboats needed repairs after lying idle for a long time. The second wave hit the country badly with restrictions all over the place again. Now covid third wave fear has made us apprehensive about fresh investments in the future. The rising fuel prices comes as another problem making resumption of operations difficult. We can’t even increase the rent at this point of time, he added.
The backwaters in Alappuzha, with around 1,000 houseboats, would employ at least three-five persons. Those employees and investors have taken other routes for income generation with some delivering fish and vegetables, added Pulickattil.
In Wayanad, a large number of properties are sitting idle and are in crisis with nobody having a single penny to restart business, says A resort operator P T Jamshith. Jamshith further added that several resorts and homestays have also been closed in the state with many up for sale at half the rate of pre-Covid days. The properties that were taken on lease have now been abandoned . The fact that only bikers are now checking in at off-road resorts is the only source we have right now, said Jamshith to IE.
This year’s Onam celebration will also be different in the state. P A Mohammed Riyas, Kerala Tourism Minister, had announced recently that the Tourism department this year would be celebrating Onam virtually. This will help promote domestic tourism and bring together Malayalees from all over the world on a digital platform in view of Covid-led travel restrictions. The state government is working hard to revive domestic tourism. The government is identifying unexplored tourist spots in various places and will collate them on an app to bring everyone’s attention, said the minister at a press meet. The virtual celebration will help showcase the state’s arts, culture, food and travel destinations on a digital platform.
The minister further stated that this new initiative has been taken to revive the ailing tourism sector in the state. The tourism industry has been struggling ever since the epidemic struck the country in March last year. The data reveals that from March 2020 till December 2020, the tourism sector alone suffered a loss of Rs 33,000 crore. Also, foreign exchange earnings have come down significantly by Rs 7,000 crore.
About virtual Onam celebrations in Kerala
Talking about virtual Onam celebrations, the minister stated that Kerala’s arts, culture, food and prominent tourist destinations would be displayed virtually with the help of various visual mediums. The inauguration of the virtual event would be done by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on August 14 . There will also be a ‘world flower arrangement competition’ as part of a newly planned initiative. The online registrations for the competition will begin from tomorrow, August 10 . Malayalees can upload their work ‘onampookkalam’ or flower arrangement on the Tourism department’s digital platform online. The minister also said this new initiative was taken as last year, onam celebrations had to be put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the situation was still continuing.