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Study on backwater tourism under way

Tunia Cherian George

MUMBAI, Aug 1

IN a bid to preserve the State's ecosystems and to sustain its tourism potential, Kerala's Tourism Department has commissioned a study on the development of its ecologically fragile backwaters.

The Kerala Tourism Secretary, Mr T. Balakrishnan, told Business Line that a domestic consultant firm has been selected for the study after tenders were invited for the same.

The firm is expected to complete the study and submit a detailed report in 12 months.

The masterplan is expected to cover broad areas such as development of the backwaters relating to existing and envisaged tourism products, infrastructure and utilities.

It will also make detailed development proposals for the full utilisation of their tourism potential and prepare proposals for the conservation of the backwaters with respect to an environment management plan and carrying capacity assessment.

The assessment will take into account other uses of the water bodies such as fishing, irrigation and navigation.

The firm is also expected to submit proposals for improving the financial and social condition of the local community linked with the development plans.

The masterplan would also throw up recommendations for phasing of the development proposals for three periods - before 2007, 2008-2015 and 2015-2025, and a marketing plan covering target markets and market strategies.

It would assess the investment requirements for the three-phased development of the backwaters with possible private participation.

Emphasising the department's initiatives for the sustainable development of tourism, the Minister said that Kerala was the first State to go in for legislation - the Tourism (Conservation, Preservation and Trade) Bill - to usher in quality control in its tourism products.

He said that the department was not looking at numbers alone.

The State has been positioned as a destination for the high-spending tourist.

The department also proposes to put in place an incentive scheme whereby tourist facilities would be graded (`A', `B', `C', and so on) for their compliance with ecological norms under an ecological certification system.

In an attempt to develop exclusive facilities, the department has also pushed the concept of "boutique tourism'' for the development of "small, 30-40 room resorts that recreate the ambience of the State''.

The facilities would provide an ethnic touch to the department's tourism development efforts.

It is also believed that such small-scale ventures will open the travel and tourism trade to new entrepreneurs, he said.

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