The north Malabar in Kerala is on a par with any tourist destinations in the world when it comes to unblemished natural beauty, rich ritual art, mouth-watering cuisine and historical buildings. But the sad part is that only a few tourists coming to Kerala have Kannur and Kasaragod districts on their itinerary. In a bid to woo travellers to north Malabar, the region is gearing up to organize a tourism festival. Earnest efforts are on to churn out tourism packages that provide exemplary facilities to travellers at affordable rates. Tour packages for Kannur are being chalked out on the lines of the AirAsia one that ferried tourists to Singapore and Malaysia.
The idea was put forward by a WhatsApp group by the name of ‘Team Historical Flight Journey’, which had been relentlessly rooting for the development of the Kannur airport. The ‘Team Historical Flight Journey’ group comprises of people who flew to Abu Dhabi in the inaugural flight from Kannur airport on December 9, 2018. The organizers of the tourism festival hope that cost-effective and quality tour packages can be made available if all players in the tourism industry are brought under one umbrella.
The Kannur International Airport can grow exponentially if its passenger numbers are improved drastically. A 10 percent up-tick in domestic travellers passing through Kannur airport is expected if the tour packages for north Malabar are up for grabs. The jump in the domestic passenger numbers would work as a catalyst for the airlines companies to operate more services to Kannur airport. The increase in passenger numbers would also augur well for getting the ‘point of call’ status for the airport in future.
Plans are on the anvil to chalk out package tours whereby people of Kannur, Kasaragod, Wayanad and Kozhikode districts can fly to other cities and tourist destinations in the country through Kannur airport.
Initiative backed by 30 organizations
The Kannur Development Forum, which has close to 30 groups including North Malabar Chamber of Commerce, Disha, Kerala Chamber and Industries, Kannur Press Club, Textiles Exports Organization, WAKE (Welfare Association of Kannur Expats), Positive Union, Self-employed Travel Agents, Kerala, is spearheading the initiative known as ‘Destination Kannur’. The state tourism department and KIAL (Kannur International Airport Limited) have also thrown their weight behind the ambitious project.
The tour packages will be made available from March 15 to May 15, 2022. The website www.destinationkannur.com was launched by state Excise Minister M V Govindan the other day for accessing the packages.
Efforts are on to bring travel agencies, hotel and restaurant associations, Accommodation Providers’ Association, Houseboat Owners’ Association, home stays and resorts on a common platform, says Kannur Development Forum co-chairman C Jayachandran. Tourism deputy director Prasanth Vasudev notes that 10 tour operators of the district were given the tag of official partners of the ‘Destination Kannur’ tourism festival. The chosen tour operators were given the task of framing 10 packages that provide opportunities for the travellers to get a taste of ‘Theyya Kavu’, beaches, mountains, Kannur cuisine, rivers, traditional rituals and historical monuments, adds the deputy director.
Besides the 10 tour packages as part of the ‘Destination Kannur’ initiative, the tourists can also contact travel agencies to avail unique daily packages that ensure delectable varieties of local cuisines too. The organizers are hoping that the two-month festival would catapult north Malabar to a prominent position on the world tourism map.
North Malabar to welcome over 500 tour operators
More than 500 international tour operators, who will be coming to north Malabar, would be made aware of the immense tourism potential of the region, states Tourism Department Additional Chief Secretary and KIAL Managing Director V Venu. It may be noted that only a small percentage of tourists coming to Kerala visit north Malabar. If the travellers setting foot on Kerala shores have to be brought to Kannur, Kasaragod and Wayanad districts, then the international tour operators should understand the tourism opportunities of the region. As part of the efforts to educate the 500 international tour operators, they would be brought to north Malabar in batches in one year, says Prasanth.
The North Malabar Chamber of Commerce has also chalked out a programme to introduce the scope of north Malabar’s tourism to national tour operators. Sixty tour operators from Delhi, Pune, Noida, Hyderabad and Surat would be brought to Kannur in the second week of January, informs Chamber Tourism sub-committee chairman K K Radhakrishnan. The office-bearers add that Kannur’s hotels and resorts would also be introduced to the tour operators.
Plans are on the anvil to make available tour packages that include air tickets through the airline companies operating services to Kannur as part of the ‘Destination Kannur’ project, says KIAL COO M Subhash. The preliminary talks regarding this are underway, he adds.
Prasanth informs that all the hotels and main tour operators of Kannur and Kasaragod districts would be made partners of the initiative.
‘Destination Kannur’ will give requisite fillip to the growth of not only the tourism industry of the north Malabar but also the trade sector of the region, says Dr Joseph Benaven, president of North Malabar Chamber of Commerce.
River cruise all ready
River cruises, which had been put in place by different tourism societies as part of the Malanad River Cruise project, would also be part and parcel of the ‘Destination Kannur’ initiative. The representatives of the Parassinikadavu Royal Tourism Society, Ezhilam Houseboat, which is owned by Ezhome Bank and WAKE, have confirmed that they would be part of the ‘Destination Kannur’ packages.
Malabar travel mart in the offing
Efforts are on to organize a Malabar travel mart in Kannur, which will showcase north Malabar’s tourism opportunities, on the lines of Kerala travel mart. Though the idea to conduct a travel mart was put forward by the North Malabar Chamber of Commerce, all the organizations that are part of the Kannur Development Forum are backing the venture. The aim of the mart is to bring tour operators from different of the world to Kannur and expose them to the tourist spots, rituals, cuisines, rivers, mountains, backwaters, handicrafts and traditional occupations of Kannur, Kasaragod, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Malappuram districts. Moreover, the lodging facilities for the travellers and cruises would also be showcased. The main attractions of the event would be Malanad River Cruise and Thalassery Heritage Tourism projects. The organizers of the travel mart are steadfast in optimally utilizing the potential of the Kannur airport.
The words of encouragement from state Tourism Minister P A Mohamed Riyas when he first visited the district after becoming the minister gave the much-needed boost to conduct the travel mart, say forum office-bearers. The minister reminded them that the top international travel magazines mentioned that the tourism potential of Malabar is yet to be tapped properly.
Mohamed Riyas, who is also the PWD Minister, gave assurance that the road infrastructure in the region would be improved.
The state tourism department is chalking out extensive plans to double the number of tourist arrivals in 2025 compared to the present numbers. The five-star hotel project in Muzhappilangad had been kick-started as part of the efforts to attract more tourists to the region. Many projects, including imparting training to personnel working in the tourism industry in the district, are being prepared, adds Prasanth.