Tour packages linking rural locales turn ‘new normal’

Circuit connecting Vaikom, Ambaloor, Valanthakad, Perumbalam, and Kadamakudy being developed

With stakeholders looking up to village and Responsible Tourism (RT) destinations to woo tourists in the wake of the COVID-19 onslaught and subsequent emphasis on hygiene and physical distancing, efforts are on to hew out a tour circuit linking Vaikom, Ambaloor, Valanthakad, Perumbalam, and Kadamakudy.

Vaikom has already made waves by being the epicentre of Peoples Participation for Participatory Planning and Empowerment (PEPPER), an RT initiative of the Kerala Tourism. Coincidentally, the theme of World Tourism Day that falls on Monday (September 27) is ‘Tourism and Rural Development’.

Even as the world is shifting focus to rural tourism by involving the local community, Kerala has made strides in this regard in the past decade. The slew of global and national recognitions that the State has gained is proof for it, said K. Rupesh Kumar, coordinator, State RT Mission. “RT initiatives have two main advantages. The local community will considerably benefit from tourist footfall, while the ecological impact of tourism will be minimal. Schemes like PEPPER are implemented in a panchayat or island. The local body of each region too is roped in for the purpose, following which a tourism resource mapping is done, to ready a directory of traditional artisans, story tellers, and others with expertise in various fields. Guests can directly contact them sans middlemen. Such experiential tourism packages are becoming a global trend, especially in the wake of the pandemic,” he said.

With Vaikom less than an hour’s drive from Kochi, a circuit of emerging RT destinations like Ambaloor, Valanthakad, Perumbalam, and Kadamakudy could be developed, tourism sources said.

The rural and RT initiatives launched recently gave a boost to tourism in Ernakulam. Valanthakad island, located a stone’s throw away from Kochi in Maradu Municipality, is the latest to join the list. A bridge is being built to establish connectivity with the mainland, while a walkway, floating facilitation centre, and a boat jetty will be constructed as part of a ₹90-lakh project of the Kerala Tourism.

Kadamakudy island is a high-in-demand destination, especially for domestic tourists, while Ambaloor is set to follow suit.

Nedumchira near Perumbavoor, Piravom, Thiruvairanikulam, Ashramam Kadavu, and Sivarathri Kadavu have found place in the list of recently-developed destinations in Ernakulam.

Furthermore, the Ernakulam District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) is spearheading efforts to establish a beach circuit, linking beaches in the Goshree islands. All this is aimed at invigorating rural tourism prospects in the district, DTPC sources said.

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