Kerala Into Caravan Tourism To Promote Unexplored Beautiful Spots

From mesmerizing mountains to dazzling beaches, colonial era architectural marvels to natural splendors, Kerala is abundant with many attractive places to visit. As depicted by the Tourism Department, Kerala is, no doubt, a ‘Gods Own Country’. Large number of domestic and international visitors have been lured to Kerala every year. However, it is also true that so much of this beautiful state including remote villages, hill areas and beaches remain unexplored as these places failed to accommodate tourists due to lack of infrastructure facilities.

In this background, with the aim of capitalizing the tourism possibilities of these hidden gems of the state, Kerala is going to launch a Caravan Tourism Program.  Last Wednesday, the state tourism department has rolled out a comprehensive, stakeholder-friendly Caravan Tourism policy, promising visitors safe, and customized and closest-to-nature travel experience.

According to the policy, there will be two types of caravans. In one model, two guests shall be accommodated, while the other is for a family of four members, an ANI report said.

“Eco-friendliness being a major feature of Caravan Tourism, preferably Bharat Stage VI compliant vehicles will be pressed into service. Assuring complete security of the guests, there will be IT-enabled real-time monitoring of caravans,” said a press statement from the Department of Tourism, Kerala.

The government also said that caravan parks are to be developed in the private sector, public sector or in the joint sector.

“A caravan park will be a completely safe and secure zone offering hassle-free and stress-free environment to tourists, protected with necessary features like compound wall, adequate security and safety arrangements, patrolling and surveillance cameras,” it said.

While unveiling the policy which offers attractive investment subsidy to Caravan operators, the state tourism minister, P A Mohamed Riyas said, “This marks a paradigm shift in almost three decades after the state made it big with houseboat tourism that provided a unique experience to visitors and positioned the state as a major global destination.”

Highlighting the importance and significance of Caravan Tourism, the minister mentioned, “The policy envisages laying down the broad framework for the development and encouragement of Caravan Tourism in Kerala, predominantly in the private sector through incentivizing the purchase of caravans and for establishing caravan parks, chalking out the process and procedures for its operations and approvals.”

The state’s Additional Chief Secretary of Tourism, Dr Venu V said, “Caravan Tourism imparts an added thrust to the State’s inclusive approach of leveraging the tourism potential of the entire state by bringing to attention many an unexplored spot side-by-side the promotion of established destinations. Every unexplored destination can be made accessible with the rollout of this meticulously drawn up policy.”

Moreover, the Kerala government will slash the motor-vehicle tax on tourist caravans by one-fourth, considering the immense scope of Caravan Tourism in the state, State Tourism Department said here on Thursday, PTI reported.

According to the report, Kerala Transport Minister Antony Raju has agreed in-principle to a proposal in this regard from Tourism Minister P A Mohamed Riyas, it said in a release. The proposal will soon be approved by the government after going through the formalities required, Raju said while inaugurating a joint workshop of Tourism and Transport departments held here to deliberate on the operational details of the Caravan Tourism policy and sensitize Regional Transport Officers (RTOs) on the procedural and regulatory aspects of the project.

Hailing the policy announced recently as a major step forward in tourism development, Raju pledged utmost support and cooperation of the Motor Vehicles Department for its success. Presiding over the inaugural session of the workshop, Riyas asked the Motor Vehicles Department to ensure that the registration of caravan vehicles and issue of permits to them are carried out in a hassle-free manner, the report said.

The tax on caravans must be reduced to ?250 per square metre from the current ?1,000 per sqm, he said in his address. The government’s policy is that every panchayat and municipality must have at least one tourist destination. For their smooth day-to-day running, the government has decided to enlist active participation of local self-government institutions.

Since suitable staying facilities in such set-ups will be difficult, the solution is caravan tourism, Riyas said. Raju said the government would provide green channel passage for caravans that carry a special sticker suggesting the joint recognition of the Tourism and Transport departments.

They would also get preference while testing for pollution. Caravans will be given registration within 24 hours of application, the Minister said. The Additional Transport Commissioner would be the State Nodal Officer for Caravans. The practice of on-road inspections will be avoided to facilitate smooth passage of caravans. The workshop mainly focused on the rules and regulations pertaining to the operation of tourist caravans.

It also looked into the procedural protocols relating to the standardization of caravans and their smooth movement in any part of the state and comfortable stay of tourists at the caravan parks and other stop-over spots. The state government had recently announced the country’s most stakeholder-friendly Caravan Tourism Policy, promising the visitors a safe, customized and closest-to-nature travel experience, the PTI report said.