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Unprecedented rush at tourist destinations

By S. Anil Radhakrishnan

Thiruvananthapuram Dec. 28. Kerala as a "holiday and New Year destination" has been totally sold out with hotels and major resorts in the tourist destinations across the State all booked till the second week of January. All domestic and international flights to the State are also completely booked.

The major tourist destinations in the State such as Kovalam, Varkala, Kumarakom, Munnar, Kochi and Thekkady are witnessing a steady flow of tourists, both from within the country and outside over the last few days. Many celebrities and VVIP's, including Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadhera, have already flown into the State to spend their holidays and celebrate New Year at the various destinations in God's Own Country.

The Director of Tourism, Alkesh Kumar Sharma, who also holds the charge of the Managing Director of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), said all the prime properties of the State-owned corporation at Thekkady, Kumarakom, Munnar, Bolghatty and Kovalam are full till January 15.

Hospitality industry sources said private resorts and all established hotels have also been fully booked till the second week of January. Even small resorts with just a handful of beds that have come up at Kovalam, Poovar, Chowara (south of Kovalam), Thenmala, Kappil, (north of Varkala), are full for the next one week.

Chartered flights from Amsterdam carrying Dutch tourists and another from Gatwick with tourists from the U.K. arrived today, cheering up the travel trade.

Many tour operators are declining to accept bookings due to the unprecedented rush. A city-based tour operator said the lack of suitable accommodation had forced him to reject the tour package of an Italian group of 20 tourists and a Russian group who wanted to celebrate New Year in the State.

The Chairman of the Kerala Chapter of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), E. M. Najeeb, said the State has been "totally sold out" and the destination has become very expensive over the years. "It is a new trend being witnessed in the State. The rooms in major resorts have been sold in the range of $ 300 to $ 700 per night," he added.

Apart from foreigners, domestic tourists from North India are also making a beeline for the State. Those from Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai have booked the mid-budget hotels at Munnar and Kumarkom.

Hospitality industry sources said the unprecedented rush in the State is due to the good inbound tourism season being witnessed in the country after a gap of four years. Kerala, being a favoured, well-marketed destination and with a variety of tourism products to offer, is the prime beneficiary of the heavy tourism inflow into the country.

The Director of Tourism says the current season has been very good for the tourism industry of the State as it had been able to attract `repeat tourists' and to successfully tap non-traditional markets such as Russia, Netherlands, Australia, South-East Asia and Eastern Europe for the first time. The quality service being offered to the guests and the marketing of the destination and the various tourism products abroad have helped the State to attract more tourists this season. The international and domestic tourist arrivals to the State are expected to register an increase of 30 and six per cent respectively this year.

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