With Neelakurinji and new additions, Kerala is all set for a fresh tourist season

Munnar is in a revival mode, following the widespread blooming of Neelakurinji, the purple-blue flower, which blooms once in 12 years. And, to the north of Kerala, the Kannur International airport is all set to be operational in a couple of months time. Towards the south, Jatayu Earth Centre is calling all adventure lovers to experience the newly opened facilities. Kerala is on a revival mode, with all these major additions and is expecting more number of tourists to flock the state, with these added attractions.

After the slowdown of inbound tourists due to the rain and floods, Munnar is in a revival mode. The damaged roads are repaired and now hordes of tourists are making a beeline for Munnar to experience the spectacular blooming of Neelakurinji, the purple-blue flower, which blooms once in 12 years.

The first batch of tourists have arrived at Munnar in a big Scania bus on 15th September 2018. The group consisted of 75 members of TOAK (Travel Operators Association of Kerala. They have chosen a big Scania bus to make the public aware that there was no roadblocks and Munnar is safe to visit.

“The Neelakurinji last bloomed in 2006 and will bloom again this year. The world’s largest bird sculpture ‘Jatayu’ at Jatayu Nature Park in Chadayamangalam is open to public. The Allepey houseboats are waiting for tourists while the Kochi-Muziris Biennale — India’s largest art exhibition — will start in December. Airports, bus routes, railway stations and taxis have started functioning. We want to spread the word that Kerala tourism is ready to embrace all with open arms,” said said P Balakiran, Tourism Director.

Munnar ghats witness this visual extravagance once in 12 years – blooming of Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana). Mostly the flowers start blooming from July. However, due to rain and floods, the blooming has delayed this year. Neelakurinji flowers are usually visible at Vattavada and Rajamala region of Munnar. This year, a nearby valley of Kolukkumalai is also blessed with Neelakurinji blooms.

“Neelakurinji have bloomed massively in the valleys this year. If there is no setback in the climate, the Neelakurinji season may continue until October. Currently more than 3500 persons visit the Eravikulam National park every day,” said Sandeep, Range officer in Eravikulam National Park. District Promotion Council (DTPC) and Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) have arranged special packages for the tourists to reach Eravikulam National Park and Kolukkumail, where the tourists can see extensive blooming of Neelakurinji along the whole valley, making it a purple-blue carpet.

As a bonus to the spectacular purple blue carpet of Neelakkurinji flowers, tourists can also see mountain goats, scientifically named ‘Nilgiritragus hylocrius’, during their visit to Munnar. It is also known by the name Nilgiri Ibex or simply Ibex. Locally the animal is called ‘Varayaadu’.

The Kannur International Airport in northern Kerala, which is scheduled to be opened in November 2018, is expected to be beneficial for the tourism sector.  An Air India Express Boeing 737 flight which can carry 189 passengers has landed in Kannur airport on September 20, successfully completing the trial landing. The airport will serve as a channel for tourism development since Wayanad, Calicut, and Kasaragode is closer to Kannur and thus improve connectivity between these destinations. Tour operators of Wayanad and Calicut feel the new airport will increase the tourist footfall in the region.

The upcoming 10th edition of the Kerala Travel Mart, which has Malabar Tourism as the focal theme, and the opening of Kannur international airport this year,  will give a boost to tourism in North Kerala,” said Vancheeswaran, President of Wayanad Tourism Association.

Wayanad DTPC has already launched a social media campaign with posters that read: ‘The sun is shining in God’s Own Country and Wayanad awaits your footprints’. In order to propagate the revival of the tourism destination; Wayanad District Tourism Promotion Council (WDTP) has organizing an inter-state bike rally with the tag line, “Wayanad Beckons’. Around 20 bikers began the ride from Wayanad on September 21. After visiting Mysore, Coimbatore, Mettupalayam and Nilgiris, the bikers reached back Wayanad on September 23. The bikers also distributed stickers, posters and brochures to the public, travel agents and tour operators, affirming that the destination is open and is safe to explore.

Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran at Jatayu Earth Centre

Jatayu Earth Centre has started its operations from August 24 onwards. The ticket charge per person is Rs. 400. The tickets are being booked through the website www.jatayuearthscenter.com. “There is a great response to online ticket booking,” said a statement. The entry to the Earth Centre is only through online booking so as to restrict the crowd. On the ‘Uthradam’ day (first day of Onam), the JEC was dedicated the World’s largest bird sculpture as well as the Swiss made hi-tech cable car to the people. The park situated at a whopping 65 acres of land holds the distinction of having the world’s first functional sculpture. It is also India’s first fully fenced park with all safety measures ensured for visitors.

On September 16, the state has received the first chartered flight of tourists this season following the devastating floods. The flight with 46 tourists from Australia landed at Cochin International Airport on Saturday. “The arrival of the chartered flight consisting mostly tourists from Australia will send out a definitive message that the tourism sector in Kerala is all geared up to welcome the visitors. It will also help remove the perception the influx of tourists is dwindling in the state,” P Balakiran said. “At this point, Kerala Tourism needs a lot of backing to tell the world the tourism industry is still going strong. And the arrival of this season’s first chartered flight will certainly send out that message,” said state Tourism Secretary Rani George.

A group of 100 Australians has arrived in Alappuzha today (September 26), consisting of the members and supporters of the international music band, ‘Australian World Orchestra’. The tour programme is organized by WanderNow, a Kochi based tour operator, who organizes experiential trips for their clients. The Australian team will first visit Alappuzha and experience the backwater cruise in house boats. They will also have opportunity to interact with the local communities and understand the way of village life and the bio-diversity of the region. The team will be introduced to the products made from Water Hyacinth and Clams. Later the team will visit the organic farms, indigenous coir manufacturing units etc in the area. They will also be given an opportunity to visit the state Kudumbasree units to understand their objectives and operations. “We wish to give the tourists the best of the experience with special focus on village life experience and provide them an unforgettable trip, before they go back to their country,” said Nebu Sam John, COO of WanderNow.

The 10th edition of the Kerala Travel Mart, organised by Kerala Travel Mart Society in partnership with Kerala Tourism, which will be held in Kochi from 27-30 September, will boost the sagging morale of the travel fraternity and mark the revival of tourism in the state. “KTM will witness the participation of 1200 delegates (domestic and international) from 73 countries. This will be the highest participation from abroad in the history of KTM,” said Baby Mathew, President, KTM. “The state will soon recoup the losses and estimates a 20 per cent growth in the coming year due to new products and destinations. New products like yoga and new destinations like Jatayu Para would help Kerala to increase footfalls. Cruise tourism is also expected to help significantly with the Cochin Port constructing a new cruise terminal,” he added.

“There is a huge inflow of tourists from Gujarat, Delhi and Kolkata during Navratri. We are having extremely high hopes for September and October which is the Navratri season,” said P Balakiran, Tourism Director.

The state tourism department is also planning to launch a new brand campaign shortly to reignite interest in Kerala as a premier tourism destination in India. The new campaign will be a value addition to the brand ‘God’s Own Country’ and will present the destination in a new perspective through videos and photographs. “We hope to attract more people in tune with the peak tourist season that will begin in October. Apart from the action plan, the new brand campaign and emphasis on connectivity, attention will be given to cleanliness of locales. Already, stakeholders are engaged in cleanliness drive in nine prominent destinations,” said Rani George.

The department is also planning to participate in 12 international trade fairs and 26 B2B (business-to-business) meets in international cities during 2018-19 period, starting from October. The international campaign for the current fiscal will begin with a B2B meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,on October 7, followed by one in Dammam (Saudi Arabia) and another in Manama (Bahrain) on October 9 and 10, respectively. The participation in international trade fairs will begin with ITB Asia, scheduled to be held in Singapore from October 17 to 19 followed by World Travel Market in London from November 5 to 7.