A smooth sail
The India International Boat Show, 2004, that was held in Kerala recently, is all set to boost tourism, says PREMA MANMADHAN.
On show were canoes, inflatables, water scooters and speed boats.
THAT water bodies spell money, if handled with international finesse, was the message driven home by the high profile India International Boat Show 2004, held in Kochi, Kerala, recently.
The third such annual show, held at a five-star convention centre, by Kerala Tourism, attracted the cream of the boating community, manufacturers and prospective buyers. The international presence was encouraging, as there were 19 foreign exhibitors. Indians who occupied 47 stalls. G.G. Marine, UAE, won the "Best exhibitor" award. Trade enquiries worth Rs. 70 crores were made at the three-day show, which concluded on October 10, and have propelled enthusiasm in tourism circles.
From the rustic-plush Kettuvallams to the Baywatch-kind of "Bayliner 222 Classic" (cost: Rs. 34 lakhs, imported from the U.S. and towed by road from Mumbai to the venue) it was all there at the show, that also focussed on seven different kinds of boats along with state-of the art marine equipment and eco-friendly methods of waste disposal.
"The Rs. 50 crore-modern marina, to come up in Kochi, with a clubhouse, and infrastructure of international standards, will develop a sailing culture," says E.K. Bharat Bhooshan, Principal Secretary, Kerala Tourism. The fact that Kochi lies between West Asia and South East Asia, gives the proposed marina a golden chance to thrive, unlike the marinas at Singapore, where a boating culture is yet to take off. "Private enterprise is the answer to develop tourism in this area," says Bhooshan.
It's an impetus to beach tourism, but never mind if you can't buy one.
Kerala's indigenous boat building activities, especially in Beypore, which are at a standstill, will get a chance to resume work, once the backwaters and the inland waterways open up. Backwater tourism is certainly taking off, for Bhooshan revealed that Adrian Zacha, international celebrity and owner of the Aman Resorts chain of hotels, is looking for land in waterbody-rich Alappuzha for a project.
No sailing culture
The reduction in tax from 59 per cent to 39 per cent for importing boats will go a long way in developing water tourism, feel tourism circles. But the sailing culture is yet to take off in India for lack of the right exposure and encouragement. The money is there, but not the will or expertise and perhaps the adventurous streak. Gulshan Rai, who sailed around the world, was one of the star attractions at the show. His presence buoyed the visitors and the fact that this famous sailor does not know how to swim triggered interest in the not-so-adventurous too.
The boat shows have given the well-heeled several entertainment options. And with the "Queen of the Arabian Sea" poised to step on to the global boating and cruising scene, there is excitement ahead.
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