Essay on Tourism and economic Growth in Kerala

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With insecure conditions in the Kashmir Valley many other States have been vying to become tourist centers. Himachal Pradesh, of course, comes first in the Himalayan ranges while Goa surpasses others as a seaside resort.

Tourism goes for economic growth of Goa to a great extent. Although the sea shore of Kerala is more beautiful than that of Goa and is many times longer, Kerala has not come up as a tourist centre as Goa has and has been. Kerala, the birth place of Sankaracharaya can boast of its culture. The state has many first—literacy, education, urbanization and social activism being some important ones. The state also provided haven to the Christian missionaries from the Middle East as Gujarat did to the Parsees during the same period. Naturally Keralites do not get involved in a thing that looks culturally cheap and superfluous.

When we look at the tourist centers in Kerala they have been decided and devised from national or cultural point of view not from the western angle. Naturally they are Thiruvananthapuram, once the cleanest city of India—an abode of beautiful temples, churches and mosques, Ponmudi and Padmanabhapuram palace, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, the pilgrim centre of Sabarimala—abode of Lord Ayyappan, Kochi—the Queen of the Arabian Sea, Willingdon Island, Kalady the birthplace of Sankaracharaya, Lord Krishna’s shrine of Guruvayur, Edaki cave in Wyanad and Kaiamandalam the famous kathakali centre. It is something like going to see the famous palace or Brindaban Garden in Mysore, the Taj in Agra, the Red Fort in Delhi, the Jain Shrines, the beautiful temples of Madurai or the historical forts in Rajasthan. All these may be of interest to most of the Indian tourists and some in qualities ones coming from abroad. But they can hardly be associated with the booming trade of tourism that flourishes in Himachal Pradesh and Goa-for two different reasons of course.

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With the highlands having peaks well over 1,800 m. the State can have a semblance of tourist centers of U.P., H.P. and Bihar. The midlands between the mountains with rich plantations of fruits, tea and spices have their own attraction. But the most important area is the lowlands i.e. the coastal area, made up of river deltas, backwaters and the shore of the Arabian Sea-the land of coconuts and green rice fields. It is this area that can be grown as a tourist attraction as it is ten times more beautiful than the beach resorts of Goa.

Even Kovalam Beach Resort is not as much developed as Calangute, Colva and Vagator beaches and many smaller ones are in Goa. The tourist industry—the main industry of Goa flourishes not on the Basilica of Bom Jesus having the casket of St. Francis Xavier, the Assissi Church, the Mangueshi Siva Temple, the Santha Durga Temple, the Nagueshi Temple or the Aguada Fort but on the sea beaches that have a direct access to Dabolin airport near Vasco-da-Gama that receives international chartered flights. The sea beaches attract a million tourists a year including 1.25 lakh foreigners.

To develop tourist industry Kerala will have to do away with the apathy for westernization to some extent. The government launched “Destination Kerala 1993-94” for the development of Roads and waterways around 15 selected centers. But it was a half-hearted plan as no budgetary provisions were made.

The government as well as the NGOs has given priority to social service sector. So there are achievements in that area. Moreover whatever is done is only by government agencies. 11 hotel units, 2 Yatrinivas and eight motels are run by Kerala State Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) and Department of Tourism. As five star facilities are not available these do not attract foreign tourists and had an accumulated loss of 7.98 crore in 1991. The State is ranked fourth among the recipients of financial assistance from the Tourism Finance Corporation of India for hotel projects. Still it hasn’t come up.

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There was a 27 per cent increase in the inflow of foreign tourists in India in 1993-94. But Kerala could not increase its share. The state will have to develop its infrastructure i.e. development of better roads, telecommunication, power and water supply and five star hotels.

Moreover the government should encourage private sector to develop hill stations, sea beaches and areas in between plantations. If tourism industry is developed on the right lines in Kerala it will top other States and will provide employment to the large number of unemployed people both in the private and public sector.

Because of the ancient cultural background Kerala can ill afford the promiscuity that plays an important role in the inflow of tourists on the Goa beaches. According to a report if the trends in Goa continue unchecked it may ‘put London’s hottest night spot Soho to shame. In variety and sensuality the State may have more to offer than Las Vegas’.

A hotel in Panaji in Goa has been mentioned in “Spartacus” an international guide for homosexuals. Male prostitutes are available in the guise of oil massagers while young local girls have replaced professional prostitutes. Drug peddling is a common phenomenon. Sexual services are available in shacks and privately rented houses. Unemployment, promiscuity and blind invitation of western life style by local youth is responsible for such a situation.

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According to Bruno De Souza ‘tourism is ruining the quality of our life and spoiling our youth’. But according to Libia Pereira ‘tourism is not bad provided we take proper safeguards to keep its evils out’. The people and the government have to take a hint from this lady who runs an embroidery class.

Let the youths of Kerala who go for white collared jobs not fall a prey to the evils of this flourishing industry. Let them be lotus surrounded by slushy water and develop the industry as is being done in other states. It is rather encouraging that Kerala has developed tourism in the states to the extent that in 2001 it won the national award for the best state in tourism for the second year in a row.

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