Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Jan 12, 2005
Industry & Economy
After tsunami, it's business as usual on Kerala beaches
Kochi , Jan. 11
PRAVEEEN and friends were an unhappy lot. When the mild aftershocks of the tsunami receded from the Varkala coastline, it seemed to have taken away their means of livelihood.
Praveen and 21 other friends made their living by hiring out beach umbrellas and reclining chairs to the tourists visiting the cliff-edge Papanasam beach.
"There are hardly any tourists on the beach and few takers for our umbrellas since the tsunami struck," Praveen complained. However, by afternoon it was business as usual and all the umbrellas had been hired out.
Up on the cliff edge overlooking the Papanasam beach there was greater hope and optimism amongst the hoteliers and resort operators. "There has been hardly any effect on our business and we are running a packed house," Mr M. Kutty, the proprietor of Kattil, a beachside resort said.
Relatively cheap beach resorts such as those in Papanasam and Kovalam have traditionally been the haunt of the international backpackers.
However, the tourists visiting the Papanasam beach remained unperturbed. "The tsunami was just a small surge of water for the tourists and residents of this beach resort. We have been here for a week and will stay for another week," Mr Mike Felippe from Martinique in the West Indies said.
In fact, there is a strong rumour among the hoteliers and resort owners that more tourists will be channelised to Kerala's beachside resorts with competing destinations like Sri Lanka having been totally devastated by the tsunami.
Giving credence to these rumours, Ms Irene Saunders, a visitor from Scotland, said: "I was booked for a holiday to the Sri Lankan beaches, but seeing the devastation I did not even budge out of the airport. I caught the next flight to Kerala, where I had been to earlier."
The tourist season may not prove to be such a disaster after all, Praveen and friends conceded. The hiring business has turned out to be a brilliant business idea.
For umbrellas that cost around Rs 1,000, the rentals were Rs 50 for a full day and Rs 25 for half day. In 20 days of hiring business, the total investment cost could be recovered, the rest being profit.
But it is a temporary business spanning just three to four months every year when the tourists turn up in large numbers, they conceded. For the rest of the year Praveen goes back to driving his autorickshaw.
The same is the case with the bellboys, the waiters and bearers who wait on the tourists at the resort and hotels during the season.
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