An aeriel view of the floods in Aluva after heavy rains, in Kerala. (Source: PTI)

Rain Fury Severely Affects Kerala’s Tourism, Plantation Sectors

Floods due to the unprecedented monsoon fury in Kerala have wrecked the tourism industry and seriously impacted the plantation sector, which are among the major revenue sources for the state.

Just as the tourism industry was recovering from the cancellation of bookings at hotels and resorts following the Nipah virus outbreak, heavy rains and floods came as a huge blow, said industry sources.

The plantation sector is estimated to have suffered huge losses due to the landslides and flooding that have claimed 39 lives and rendered over one lakh homeless in the latest phase of monsoon rains since early this month. The picturesque high-range districts of Idukki and Wayanad, the most sought after destinations by tourists, are among the worst hit.

Landslides are continuing in various places and many pockets of the two districts are still flooded and the road network is also affected.

Around 70 to 80 percent cancellations have taken place in Idukki, Munnar, Kumarakom, which are among the most preferred destinations by domestic and international tourists. The loss is being assessed.
EM Najeeb, Senior Vice-President, Indian Association of Tour Operators

Also read: Respite For Kerala Over Brief Let-Up In Rains, Death Toll Reaches 37

According to a 2017 report of the State Planning Board, the share of tourism in Kerala’s Gross State Domestic Product is about 10 percent.

The downpour has played spoilsport for the tourism department’s plans to organise the famed snake boat races, which have mesmerised visitors for ages, under a new league. Snake boats or ‘Chundan Vallams’, in Malayalam, are canoe style boats which are 100 to 120 feet long and hold up to 100 rowers.

The Champion’s Boat League, designed on the lines of the Indian Premier League and other sport leagues was supposed to have kick started on Aug. 11. The annual Nehru Trophy boat race, expected to mark the beginning of the league in Alappuzha, had been postponed in view of the natural calamity.

“We'll find a new date. The government is presently busy with relief and rescue operations due to the floods and landslides in various parts of the state,” Kerala Tourism Director P Bala Kiran said.

The rains would also dampen the proposal to organise feasts at homes of people in villages for tourists under the Responsible Tourism Mission of the Tourism department during the annual Onam festival next week.

Another casualty of the incessant rains is the blooming of ‘Neelakurinji’ flower in the hills of Munnar, a once in 12-year occurrence which attracts a large number of tourists. The floods and landslides have wreaked havoc to the plantation sector in the hilly regions of the state which produces spices, rubber and tea.

Idukki, once known as the spice capital of the world, produces over 12 varieties of spices, including pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric, which are largely exported.

Also read: Half Of Kerala Reels Under Floods As 29 Die, Almost 54,000 Left Homeless

The loss suffered by tea, coffee, cardamom and rubber planters due to the rains since the onset of the South West Monsoon on May 29 has been pegged at Rs 600 crore, Secretary of Association of Planters of Kerala Ajit BK said.

The estimated loss to tea plantations alone was between Rs 150-200 crore, he said, adding that around 100 acres had been lost in landslides and flooding of tea fields in Wayanad.

In the case of cardamom, around 40 percent of the crop loss was estimated in Idukki and Wayanad districts. Due to heavy winds at the start of the monsoon, standing crops were damaged and 25 percent of the area needs re-planting, Ajit said.

According to sources in the Spices Board, there's a roughly 35 to 40 percent loss of cardamom and pepper in Idukki based on feedback from farmers.

Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala, is the time when consumer durable companies flock the state for sale of their new products, but retail sales are likely to be hit this year.