Kerala is having a great tourist season despite the disruptions caused by chikungunya disease in parts of the state in October.
Jose Dominic, who heads CGH Earth, a leading player in the tourism industry in Kerala, told the media that this has been one of the best seasons in terms of tourist arrivals. <b1>
"All my resorts have full occupancy even today - it's something that's not happened before. Normally, the season closes by Easter. This year, thanks to the unusually cold weather in Europe, we are still getting bookings," said Dominic.
The industry is also relieved that despite the left Front taking power in Kerala in May 2006, Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has ensured that ideological dogmas do not come in the way of business promotion.
"It was natural for businessmen to worry about the Left approach to the industry. But let me assure you that there have been absolutely no problems," said Tomy Pulikattil, a leading houseboat owner from Alappuzha.
"In fact we have got a boost because the government has realised that tourism is one industry which is going to bring in rewards and their policies have been more than friendly," he added.
Known as the Venice of East, Alappuzha has become the hot spot for tourists who want to enjoy the backwaters of Kerala. Boat rides here are extremely popular.
A few years back, Alappuzha had around 100 houseboats. The number has swelled to more than 350.
Pulikattil is well known in tourism circles for experimenting with his houseboats. And he is not letting this opportunity pass him by.
His latest addition is a houseboat with a swimming pool on the upper deck and two bedrooms on the lower deck.
"The major work is over. All that remains is interior designing. The boat would be pressed into service in a month's time," said an excited Pulikattil.
The houseboat owner shot into fame when he built the first moving ayurveda treatment facility boat. Then came an all women operated houseboat, which became an instant hit especially with foreigners. This was followed with a houseboat with a jacuzzi and convention facilities for 100 people.
The tourism minister said the government was determined to provide support to the industry.
"We have decided we will not lose this chance and are looking to promoting the holiday season in a big way. We are ready with a new programme called Dream Holidays," said Balakrishnan.
"The monsoon season will begin soon, and we are gearing up for it. Our ultimate aim is to place Kerala on the tourist map for all 365 days," he added.
Kerala will host the second international conference on 'Responsible Tourism' here in September.
"This is for the first time in my career as a tourist guide for the past decade that I've had a season without rest. And from what I hear, the coming season is going to be even more busier as more and more reputed tourism companies from Europe are beginning to see Kerala as a potential destination," said Koshy John, a travel agent for international tourism companies.