‘Kerala – God’s Own Country: Heaven never shuts down’, was a blog jointly written by Maithily P R and Suresh Menon, who are both management consultants. E-magazine website TakeOne.in picked it up and published it sensing its potential to drive the tourism sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Subsequently, several online news sites, newspapers and magazines also picked up the story and carried excerpts and snatches from the ‘white paper’ prepared by Maithily and Suresh Menon. As expected, the paper drew the attention of the Kerala state government who was anyway drawing up their own plans to reboot the tourism industry after successfully combating the pandemic to a large extent.
According to Maithily, “During the initial lockdown there was an incidence of several foreign tourists getting stuck in some resorts. After the lockdown, every KTDC hotel and private resort went into closure. I was involved during the renovation of a KTDC hotel in Munnar and while discussing with many individuals in the government and from the private tourism industry sector, we realized that with relaxation in the lockdown, some of the high-end outlets can be opened for tourists, complying with the government’s rules and regulations. Consequently, Suresh Menon and I prepared this white paper which drew the attention of the tourism ministry in Kerala.”
Thereafter, Maithily met Kadakampally Surendran, Tourism Minister, Government of Kerala, to discuss the various ideas and suggestions carried in the white paper. Unfortunately, Suresh Menon who lives in Chennai could not travel due to the lockdown restrictions. Thereafter, the state tourism department officials had a lengthy internal meeting to discuss the proposals given in the white paper, following which the representatives of the state’s tourism industry were invited to study the suggestions.
According to Maithily and Suresh, “The travel and tourism industry is the biggest industry of the state and forms the backbone of its economy and is the primary stimulant for social development and progress. It stimulates every other sector by bringing in precious foreign exchange and investments in real estate and infrastructure.”
According to Menon, “This paper analyses the ways of how Kerala’s travel and tourism industry can wade through this turbulence and emerge a winner in the shortest possible time. Suggestions being proposed include some revolutionary thoughts and measures that can be implemented easily by a resolute administration. After much study, deep research and several interactions with the doyens of Kerala’s travel and tourism industry, some measures are being suggested for an early revival of the travel and tourism industry with specific reference to the state of Kerala. The path forward for the travel and tourism industry has to be through public-private-government participation. Only if the efforts of all the three entities combine together, will the ideas work. A combination of leisure and health will alone triumph. In all likelihood, nature and wildlife will be preferred over monuments and history in the months ahead. So, the hills, the sea resorts, the wildlife reserves and the slightly isolated locations will win over the crowded favourites of yore. When they are clubbed with the superior health and wellness offerings from the state of Kerala, the result will be an outright winner. This may benefit all tourism offerings built around outdoor activities.”
Maithily and Menon added, “We are extremely confident that if the measures are adopted by all stakeholders in all sincerity, a turnaround of the tourism sector is possible in as little as three months from when international travel resumes. We are optimistic that the oft-mentioned statement that the travel and tourism industry will take 2-3 years to get back on track can be defeated. It can also be the catalyst for all-round development in a very short time, especially with reference to the state of Kerala. Apart from obvious economic benefits to the state and the country as a whole, plenty of geo-political, geo-economic and geo-development benefits can also be reaped. The potential to generate employment for several thousands, is not the least of allied benefits.”
As of writing this article, it has been three weeks since the state government has opened tourism activities and facilities, albeit with some restrictions and conditions. But it is already showing positive results.
Maithily concludes, “Currently, many of the KTDC units are functioning with limited rooms and quite a few private resort owners have also opened out, even as Indian and foreign tourists are trickling into Kerala. More interestingly, this month being the ideal season for Ayurvedic treatments, almost all the centres and resorts have started taking in customers, strictly following government rules and regulations.”