Resort and hotel owners in one of Kerala's most sought-after tourist destinations are engaged in putting their properties back to its original shape after monsoon rains and floods ravaged the state.
Kumarakom, a picturesque tourist spot near Kottayam city, is famous for its backwaters and the Vembanad lake, the largest in the state, with enchanting houseboat rides.
The village, 160 km from the state capital, got its first major tourism boost after late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wrote a series of articles titled 'My musings from Kumarakom' following his visit in 2000.
However, the monsoon rains that started in Kerala on May 29 pushed up the water levels in the Vembanad lake to rise over 5 feet, inundating most of the lake facing properties and sending residents fleeing to relief camps.
Saji Joseph, CEO of Malabar Escapes boutique hotels, cannot believe what he saw. "It's been two weeks now and all those properties located below the Vembanad lake were inundated. We have started cleaning up our 14-room property. We were lucky as we are located above the lake and water only entered our compound," he said.
Shaji Mathew, a retired banker who opened a 5,700 sq ft resort earlier this year that houses three different units and a crafts museum, said he has had no business this month.
Mathew opened the doors of his property to those who were fleeing the destruction caused by the worst floods to hit Kerala in a century. Manu Rishi Gupta, CEO of Niraamaya Retreats whose 27-room, Rs 80 crore property still awaits its occupancy certificate, said cleaning operations were now going on.
Kumarakom village itself was cut off from the mainland with no buses plying due to the flooding. Kumarakom resident Ravi Zachariah said flooding was not an unusual phenomenon but getting cut off from the rest of Kerala was unimaginable.
"All those living in a 2-km radius from the lake had to relocate. We had no phone network, electricity and it was only on Saturday that we started receiving newspapers," Zachariah told IANS from a relief camp.
After practising 'responsible tourism,' Kumarakom won top honours at the London World Travel Mart.