Tourism response to Harthal brings in a ripple effect

Procession organized by ATTOI in Thiruvananthapuram

Kerala’s tourism sector has been bouncing back to normalcy after the devastating floods of August this year. However, the industry is still facing holdups in various forms from different areas. The recent strike (harthal) in the name of Sabarimala temple was the latest event, which affected the tourists visiting the state.

Normally tourists are exempted from strikes or harthals, as they are considered guests of the state. However, for the first time, tourists were also targeted on  harthal, which took place on 17th November 2018.  The protest in the Kochi International Airport on 16th November in relation to the Sabarimala issue was also an unacceptable event, which rampaged image of Kerala as tourist friendly state.

Surprise strikes in the state have always been exasperating the tourists, opine the stakeholders from the tourism sector of Kerala. With an objective to exempt the tourism sector from the strikes and ‘harthals’, tourism fraternity here has organized silent processions, holding lighted candles, in different parts of the state.

The procession in Thruvananthapruam was led by the Association of Tourism Trade Organizers, India (ATTOI). Similar processions have took place in different parts of the state organized by the tourism professionals.

South Kerala Hoteliers Federation (SKHF), Association of Professionals in Tourism (APT), Tourism Professionals Club (TPC) Confederation of Accredited Tour Operators (CATO), Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry (CKTI) etc., have participated in the procession in Thiruvanathapuram.

In Kochi, Tourism Professional Club has headed the procession, which start from Kochi Marine Drive and concluded at Rajaji Ground.

‘Save Munnar’ was the slogan in the procession organized by the tourism fraternity in Munnar.

“Initially it was Nipah outbreak and immediately after that the floods happened. We faced a lot of loss and expected the industry to pick up this tourism season.  But it’s not happening owing to the political atmosphere in the state. Adding to this is the warning alerts from the weather department which is shooing away tourists. People are scared to come when there is an orange alert or red alert,” said P V Manu, secretary of the Association of Tourism Trade Organisation India (ATTOI).

“Foreign tourists come to the state with tight time schedules to visit places and these protests are forcing them to stay indoors spoiling the trip. There have been times when we were unable to pick the tourists from the airport to the hotels. Tourism is one of the prime sources of income for the state.  This is just a token protest and we will give a memorandum to the government soon in this regard,” added Manu.

The protest organized by the tourism fraternity brings in ripple effect. The event could grab the attention of the media and the organizers expect to have favoruble actions from the concerned political parties and the government.

Malayala Manorama, one of the leading dailies of Kerala, has written an editorial regarding the procession organized by the tourism fraternity and urged the concerned political parties and the government to abstain from strikes and harthal, which has already put a scar on the face of the state’s tourism sector.

The daily also narrates how a harthal or surprise strikes would upset the entire plans of a tourist, who visit Kerala for peaceful, pleasant and enjoyable vacation; mostly on tight schedules.

Tourism Industry has been one of the major revenue earners of Kerala, contributing around Rs 34,000 crores per year to the state’s economy. The state hosted around 11 lakhs foreign tourists and more than 1.5 crores domestic tourists last year. The industry provides employment for around 15 lakhs persons directly and indirectly.

Weakening the tourism industry means weakening the state’s economy as a whole; hence the tourism fraternity is expecting prompt and positive responses from the government and the political parties of the state in this issue.