New Delhi, May 22 : Are Kovalam and backwaters the first things that come to mind when thinking of Kerala? All that's set to change as more places will soon be added to the bucket list from 'God's own country' -- at an outlay of Rs 500 crore.
The Kerala Tourism Department is taking new initiatives and expanding its horizons, not just in the southern belt but also the northern zone with new "must visit" destinations.
"Kerala has seen a strong tourism sector since two decades and we have been doing well domestically and internationally.
"We are starting new destinations in different geographical areas. We are widening our canvas and including new destinations," P. Bala Kiran, Director, Kerala Tourism told IANS.
He added that the northern parts of the state like Wayanad, Kannur, Kozhikode, Thissur, Malapuram and Palakad are on the list of new tourism destinations.
"This will be a separate circuit which will be complementing the existing tourism circuit in south Kerala," Kiran stated.
While the peak season for visiting the state is mainly November to February, the Tourism Department is also chalking out plans to attract tourists round the year.
And for that, the department has pumped in almost Rs 500 crore in the area for tourism and infrastructure development.
"We are also planning out new ventures like introducing river cruise facility in Malabar, making a Kameshwari heritage project, Jatayu Earth Centre which will feature world's largest bird sculpture and offering plethora of adventure and rejuvenating activities and others," Bala noted.
The department is also focusing on alluring young tourists by offering multiple adventure activities -- water-based sports like river rafting and kayaking as also trekking, paragliding.
Recently, Kerala also bagged 'Best destination for families' award through an online poll which was conducted by Lonely Planet magazine.
Bala added in the past one year, Kerala has witnessed tremendous growth in tourist arrivals -- both domestic and internatinal.
"In 2017 we had 1.09 million international tourists and 14.6 million domestic tourists which is roughly translating into a growth of 11 per cent in the last year," he added.
Asked about the major challenges being faced by the Tourism Department, Bala pointed out that ensuring safety and security of tourists were the first priority followed by providing world class amenities to the visitors and streamlining the waste management system.
"Kerala government is setting up a Tourism Regulatory Authority which will be a statutory body with full legal powers to intervene and execute orders whenever there are complaints on tourist-related activities," Bala noted.
(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)