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Tuesday, Jul 19, 2005

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The lure of monsoon tourism in Kerala

K.G. Kumar

Kerala, it appears, is well on the way to perfecting `monsoon tourism'. Now there is no off-season in the State, just a peak season and the green season.

AS the rains engulf Kerala with the annual dose of wetness and luxuriance, the weathermen may be tearing their hair out, wondering if this year's monsoon rainfall will match their predictions, but one class of people will be celebrating the drops of seasonal precipitation - tour and travel operators and, of course, their clients, the tourists from within and beyond the country, who come to savour the delights of God's Own Country.

They are coming at a time, as Kerala Tourism is now energetically pointing out, "when the heavens touch the earth." Yes, it is that magical time of year when the southwest monsoon casts its spell over the land of coconuts for three months. And, increasingly, visitors from outside the State are learning to enjoy the special treats that accompany the monsoon.

And these range from the mundane, like shopping for a range of umbrellas to simply sipping tea and watching the boatmen ferry across the backwaters to the adventurous, like trekking in the western Ghats for some diehard nature-watching. But these days, what is really bringing the smiles to the faces of Kerala's tourism professionals are the beelines for Kerala's ayurvedic health centres.

Traditionally, according to ayurvedic physicians, rejuvenation therapies have their best effect during the wet monsoon months, when the winds and the cold temperature render the body especially amenable to the therapeutic and restorative powers of the herbs and concoctions used in ayurveda. That is why upcountry visitors throng Kerala's ayurveda spas during the rainy months.

Yes, the natural synergy between the monsoon and ayurveda is finally stretching the traditional tourism season in Kerala, so much so that today the State's hoteliers can boast that there is no off-season in Kerala, just a peak season and the green season. Kerala, it appears, is well on the way to perfecting "monsoon tourism."

Already, Kerala Tourism has begun aggressively marketing the monsoon. Soon it will launch a Rs 30-lakh advertising campaign in national newspapers that will promote "value for money" packages to Kerala during the months of July, August and September. The campaign will be initially run in the Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkatta, Pune and Chennai markets.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) recently proposed monsoon tourism as a means of providing a fillip to the travel industry during conventionally lean months. Normally, the monsoon results in hotel and resort occupancies dropping by nearly 50 per cent and revenues of travel and domestic tour operators shrinking drastically.

CII believes it is imperative to identify States that can be sold as monsoon destinations.

Kerala is naturally and uniquely poised to cash in on the heavenly phenomenon. Better still, the State has another annual monsoon to fall back on, as it were - the northeast monsoon, also called the retreating monsoon, which occurs from October to November, lesser in intensity than the principal southwest monsoon, but equally enchanting.

Between these two monsoons, Kerala can hope to lure in hundreds of men and women who long for an invigorating spell of rejuvenation and healing. And since they are unlikely to be stingy with their wallets as they heal their bodies, minds and souls, Kerala's tourism and travel industry will be winners too.

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