Kerala has just witnessed the worst flood in a century. Large parts of the state have been devastated and some of its best known tourist destinations like Munnar, Wayanad and the Backwaters were affected.
Tourism is a major revenue earning sector for Kerala, contributing over 12% of GDP. The main tourism season is from September to March. The Government and the people of the State are working hard and many of the tourist facilities and sightseeing spots are back to functioning as usual. However, going by past experiences globally in places that have suffered natural disasters, it can be expected that visitors will have apprehensions to travel to Kerala and tourist inflow will be limited this season.
This would mean that much of this year’s tourism business would be impacted. However it is necessary for Kerala to assure tourists that the State is safe place to travel to. Millions of people in the State make a living from tourism activities either directly or indirectly and it will help them to recover quickly after the disaster.
While rebuilding the infrastructure and helping people reconstruct their homes and lives is the primary task that needs to be accomplished, also important is to ensure that tourist facilities like hotels and restaurants are assisted to get back to their feet quickly. This can be done by helping them getting easy access to finance. It will be some time before these businesses can hope to see the same level of revenues they got before the floods. In order to support them, the government could consider a relaxation in licensing fees and other levies.
What is needed side by side is to maintain the confidence of trade partners and customers that business is back to normal. The present state of affairs and steps being taken need to be communicated with trade partners as well as customers both directly as well as through social media from time to time. The fear of epidemics following the floods also need to be similarly allayed.
Actual current photographs of the destinations can be circulated to rebuild the confidence in Kerala’s tourism sector. The state government could also look at polices to promote tourism both internally within India as well as abroad.
The floods were a disaster that we hope will not happen again. We have also, hopefully, learned from our mistakes will take this an opportunity to rectify what was wrong and ensure more sustainable tourism.