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Thursday, Nov 11, 2004

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Poor air-connectivity to Kerala proves a dampener

C.J. Punnathara

Kochi , Nov. 10

AS the tourist season in Kerala gets into the fast lane, the international air linkages and aerial arteries are getting choked and crowded.

"It might be God's Own Country, but it is a devil of a problem getting here. As the number of visitors to the State has been growing consistently over the years, air connectivity is turning out to be a big problem. Getting a seat to Kochi during the season is difficult in the domestic sector, let alone through an international route," Mr Jose Dominic, Managing Director of the CGH group of hotels, said.

But capacity is only half the problem. Domestic fares are at such high levels that an international tourist flying halfway round the world has to pay almost half that fare to reach Kochi from Delhi, officials in the hospitality industry said.

The absence of direct connectivity between the Cochin International Airport and major European and US destinations has just compounded the problem. The major gateways to Kerala continues to be Mumbai and Delhi and only the ardent admirers of the State with sustained dedication comes down year after year, Mr Dominic said.

Like in every year, the prime resort properties in Kerala are all fully booked during the peak season beginning December 15 to January 5. The backwater retreats at Kumarakom, Thekkady and those of the Taj group and CGH are also full. The rush for airline bookings is equally evident in the unavailability of premium rooms in the State.

"The well-heeled NRI from US and Europe also come down to the State during the peak tourist season," a senior official of an international airline said. There is also competition for the same hotel rooms with the NRIs also increasingly booking into the very same hotels, which are the favourite haunts of the international tourists.

The captains of the hospitality industry do not see an immediate solution to this persistent problem. Cochin International Airport will continue to languish as an international gateway until the skies are truly opened up, they said. And that may become a reality only in the distant future. For the moment they are banking on the arrival of Deccan Aviation into Kerala skies.

"Indications are that the talks between Deccan Aviation and the Kerala Chief Minister could yield positive results soon. In which case, there would be competition over Kerala skies and capacity could build up. It may no longer be difficult for the international traveller to visit the State during the peak season," Mr Dominic said.

More Stories on : Tourism | Kerala | Airlines

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