Tourism in India is a highly seasonal
product given the geographical dimensions and the topography
of the country. Both the inbound and the domestic markets
have distinct seasons. However, the monsoon season for most
states, barring a few exceptions like Jammu and Kashmir and
Uttaranchal (essentially falling in the rain shadow region)
have traditionally been the off season for the inbound and
domestic tourism industry in India.
though vital for the Indian economy have so far been a wet
blanket for the tourism industry dropping hotel/resort occupancies
by nearly 50 per cent and nose diving revenues for travel
and tour operators servicing the domestic segment.
However, buffeted by a series of setbacks
in the past couple of years with an adverse effect on the
inbound market, the tourism industry has been strategisisng
at Milking the Monsoon in an effort to market
India as a year round tourism product.
States like Kerala and Goa have long
since taken the lead in marketing their states as monsoon
destinations, (look at case studies) not many have followed
suit. however recently states like Maharashtra, Karnataka
and Tamil Nadu who have the presence of the Western Ghats,
the mountain chain that runs for nearly 1,000 miles along
Indias south western coast, have also been proactively
toeing the line.
While Maharashtra Tourism Development
Corporation (MTDC) ran a campaign, Maharashtra in the
Rains, they launched special monsoon packages only last
year. Packages are for Tarkarli (beach), Shirdi (pilgrimage),
Bhandardhara (scenic spot), Ganpatipule (beach), Mahabaleshwar
and Matheran (hill stations), Harihareshwar (beach), Chikaldhara
(sanctuary) and Bordi (beach).
There are two types of schemes for
the monsoon packages. At some destinations the two days package
provides an extra day free of cost while other packages include
complimentary lunch and dinner. While tariffs are reduced
by 15-30 per cent at all MTDC properties during monsoon season,
the packages offer discounted rates on the lowered tariff.
According to Vijay Chavan, senior manager, resorts operation
and marketing, MTDC, occupancy due to the monsoon packages
increased by nearly 15 percent last year and is expected to
rise even further this year. Lonavala, Khandala, Bhandardhara
and Malshej Ghat are some of the popular monsoon destinations.
States Ashish Kumar Singh, managing
director, MTDC, The heritage sites of Maharashtra, which
are mostly in the Marathwada region can be promoted as monsoon
destinations. The region, which is extremely hot during summer,
is quite cool and the entire region, which is otherwise dry
and drab turns lush green. Ajanta and Ellora caves, Pitalkhora,
Bibi ka Makbara are very beautiful during the rains making
Aurangabad an excellent monsoon destination.
In Karnataka places like Coorg, Jog
Falls, Abbey Falls are at their beautiful best during the
monsoons. Besides these places like Hampi, Mysore, Belur,
Halebid, which are presently being aggressively promoted by
Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) also have
an unique charm during the rains. Promotion of eco-tourism
is high on the agenda of tourism plans in the state and many
eco-destinations could also be promoted as monsoon destinations.
Since the past two years Tamil Nadu
has also been looking beyond temples and hill stations and
is working toward promoting a variety of products including
lesser known but rich bio-spheres to nurture the industry.
Tamil Nadu has a plethora of places to choose from like chains
of hills in the Western Ghats, stretches of beaches in the
east and waterfalls and dam sites in the southern peninsula.
Pitchavaram, Muthupet, and Point Calimere (Kodaikkarai) famous
for its bird sanctuary and mangroves in Nagapattinam district
are some of the places selected for eco-tourism.
A detailed proposal for the development
of Kodiakkarai under eco-tourism at the cost of Rs 274.10
lakh has been sanctioned. The Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary
and National Park in Annamalai Hills of the Western Ghats
is an ecological paradise spread over an area of 108 square
kilometres with the Aliyar Falls close by is also being developed
Madhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary close
to the Nilgiris and Natinal National Park spread over 321
square kilometres with trekking routes from Parsan Valley-
Portimund and Pykara is also a wonderful monsoon destination.
Narayan who heads Akshaya India Pvt Ltd, based in Chennai,
feels that monsoons is a time where tourists can get bargains
on deluxe hotels, unaffordable at other times of the year.
One of the prime destinations in monsoons in Tamil Nadu
is Kanyakumari, informed Sudha, proprietor of Lovely
India Travels. Kanyakumari district on the whole has a treasure
trove of attractions like beaches, temples and historical
monuments. Tamil Nadu government has taken up the integrated
development project for Kanyakumari for the year 2003-2004,
spending Rs six crore project on a cost sharing basis with
Government of India (GoI).
In absence of any real move to market
and sell monsoon destinations in the state many travel and
tour operators in the state offer monsoon packages to Kerala.
According to Narayanan, ayurvedic packages during the monsoon
season in Kerala are quite popular. It has been proved
that Ayurvedic treatments are more effective during the monsoon
season, averred Narayanan. Baywatch Travels, a company
based in Chennai handling both outbound and inbound tours,
also offers Ayurveda packages in Kerala during the monsoons.
The packages include accommodation, plantation tours and ayurvedic
massages and a host of treatments in resorts across Kerala.
Some of them, like the Herbal Rain Holidays package
from June to September this year, includes daily massages
and rejuvenation therapies.
It is heartening to perceive the
efforts of different state governments, but we have a long
way to go before we fully capatalise the potential of this
season. The concept having taken birth will truly come of
age only when the state tourism boards and tour operators
market their products in the international arena to the discerning
tourist, luring him to the romance of the Indian rain. The
effort can well turn this wet blanket into harvest time not
only for the Indian economy but also for the Indian travel