An Imaginative Initiative in Tourism Promotion

Thiruvananthapuram: Thiruvananthapuram District Tourism Promotion Council (TDTPC) has identified a new backwater tourism circuit involving three lakes in the Kerala Capital.

The three-hour boat cruise from the brackish Kadinamkulam lake to Akathumuri – with Perumathura as the hub – will cover Perumathura bridge, Muthalapozhi fishing harbour, Anchuthengu Fort, Anchuthengu light house, Hanging Bridge, Asan Memorial and Ponnumthuruthu (Golden Island), a privately-owned island at Akathumuri lake, and conclude at Nedunganda Onnam Palam. The plan is to develop and promote it on the lines of the famed backwater circuit of Alappuzha.

“We are working out strategies to develop the circuit without polluting the water body. We should promote the use of solar boats fitted with proper sewage treatment facilities,” said T V Prashant, Secretary, TDTPC. “Once developed, the circuit would become a rare tourism product giving tourists an opportunity not only to experience and enjoy the beauty of idyllic, less-inhabited islets but to visit the historical monuments of the region and taste the local cuisine as well,” he said.

According to Prashant, TDTPC will offer customised packages to tourists. It is also planning to develop Ponnumthuruthu as an ecotourism destination jointly with the Valiyapurackal family trust, which currently owns the islet. “Before commencing boat services, we have to set up floating jetties at Kadinamkulam, Perumathura, Asan Memorial, Hanging Bridge and Panayil Kadavu,” he said.

TDTPC 2.0

Till recently, like all the DTPCs, the one in Thiruvananthapuram was also just another Government office, with officials merely concentrating on their routine work. Now, the stakeholders of the industry are unanimous in admitting that the Thiruvananthapuram DTPC has undergone a sea change. More importantly, TDTPC has been able to work jointly with those in the industry and the local communities. It is working towards transforming the entire district – from Vizhinjam to Varkala, and from Aruvikkara to Ponmudi – into a single destination for both domestic and foreign tourists. One can witness the changes happening in terms of waste management at beaches at Adimalathura, Shankhumukham and Varkala.

“Our main focus is to improve amenities and promote the existing destinations such as Akkulam, Kappil, Neyyar Dam and Aruvikkara Dam. We will chalk out plans to make these products more popular through innovative marketing tools, including social media. This, in turn, will increase revenue which will enable us to discover and develop new destinations in a big way,” said Prashant, who has been with the Department of Tourism since 1995.

By streamlining the functioning of existing units, TDTPC has almost doubled its monthly income in 2016-17. The total income of TDTPC till December 2016 in the just-concluded fiscal stands at Rs. 1.38 crore. But the total revenue generated in 2015-16 fiscal was only Rs. 1.07 crore. “As a result, TDTPC has been able to increase the salary of the staff by around 20 per cent recently,” he said.

Revamping of TDTPC website is another goal, Prashant said. “We have submitted a proposal to the Department of Tourism in this regard. Being an effective marketing tool, we would like to update the website by including more details about the destinations and also introduce a payment gateway facility for advance booking,” he added.

Cleanliness, a Responsibility

In November 2016, a foreign couple who stayed at Nikki’s Nest Resort at Chowara near Vizhinjam showered praises on the resort management for the comfortable stay, quality food and wellness packages. “But, we will not come here again. Your beach is filthy,” they said. Maria Jacob, the MD of Nikki’s Nest, was stunned. She could not believe since they have always kept the surroundings of their property clean. “Have you seen beyond,” the couple asked.

“A walk through Adimalathura beach was really an eye-opener. I felt guilty. Soon, I talked to Baby Mathew of Somatheeram, Chacko Paul of The Travancore Heritage and Subash of Manaltheeram. We also contacted Prashant of TDTPC. Together, we launched the first cleanliness drive on December 4 and have been doing the same every Monday from 3 pm to 5 pm,” she said. “I must say, this is the first time that I am seeing such an active involvement of TDTPC in promoting sustainable tourism practices,” Maria added. Taking a cue from this movement, resort owners of Poovar have also started similar initiatives at the beach there.

Under the Department of Tourism’s ‘Green Carpet’ project, TDTPC has organised training for food vendors in and around Shankhumukham beach in association with Kerala Institute of Tourism and Travel Studies (KITTS). “Over 100 food vendors were given training at the event on how to improve the quality of food served to visitors and to maintain a hygienic environment. TDTPC was the first district tourism agency in the State to organise such an initiative. Tea sellers and vendors selling snacks and refreshments have agreed that compromising on hygiene would only drive away customers from the beach. Need to avoid plastic products on the beach was also stressed. Similar training programmes were also conducted for resort owners and managers at Varkala,” he said.

According to Prashant, TDTPC would install waste bins at beaches in the course of time and rope in an empanelled agency for waste collection. “We have succeeded in curbing the practice of burning plastic and other waste near the beaches. Avoiding plastic at source will eliminate a fair amount of waste. The remaining waste could be properly segregated and disposed,” Prashant said.

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