In August, I sat watching the television, shocked at the scenes unfolding before me. The floods of Kerala were unusual and unexpected. I found myself fearing for the people, the animals, the agriculture and selfishly, the Kerala holidays I had planned for October.
Fast forward to my overnight houseboat experience and I'm here in Kerala writing this letter, with the sun setting in the sky and a coffee in hand. I'm compelled to get my thoughts on paper because I feel so moved by my experience and wish to share with the world one clear and important message…
Kerala is open.
Kerala's recovery from the floods
Until today, the most damage I have witnessed is stained tiles in hotels, the odd landscape not pruned to perfection and stories of how high the water came. Yet I see smiling people, receive warm welcomes and watch a state going about its everyday life.
However, travelling through Kerala's backwaters, I saw houses reduced to rumble, buildings stained with water damage inside and out, fishermen’s boats sunk. Today, I saw the true damage of what I saw in the media. I had reached the area where houses lie below sea level and where they were fully submerged by the floods, and villagers rescued from their homes.
As my heart broke, realising what I was witnessing, one thing struck me: Kerala has bounced back far quicker than I could have imagined. The houses were being rebuilt, the rubble cleared away, the walls were being washed and boats rebuilt. These resilient people have rebuilt their lives with such strength and resilience at such an incredible speed and yet one thing is missing: the tourists…
How your Kerala holidays impact the community
October is traditionally shoulder season in Kerala, as the last monsoon fades away. It's a time for hotels to run at 50-60% and for travellers to experience the charm of this state with perhaps fewer numbers and better prices - exact reasons why I was attracted to visit at this time.
But as I travel around this magical state I simply cannot find the tourists. Hotels are verging on empty with less than 20% of rooms occupied and yet these magnificent hotels have staff of sometimes 150 and over, ready and waiting. Kerala has bounced back, but the number of people booking Kerala holidays has not.
I sit with hotel managers throughout my trip and one common question keeps being asked: "Why aren’t people coming to visit us?" Due to extensive media coverage, when potential tourists sit and plan their India holidays, they quickly cross Kerala off due to damage, when in fact hotels are here ready to welcome you!
Over the last few years there has been a general decline in passenger numbers to India (and a struggle to reach the ambitious target of 20 million visitors by 2020) - a fact that has been the topic of many discussions on my Kerala trip - but this flood and the effect on tourism may be the breaking point for this state. Hotels cannot continue to employ so many staff if there are no guests. All responsible travel initiatives which have been set up at great cost will become too costly to run. As even this recent post in the Times of India contends, Kerala needs tourists back.
Here at Wayfairer, we often speak about responsible travel, of giving back to the community, supporting local initiatives and changing attitudes towards the environment. The easiest way you can make a difference and travel responsibly is to book your Kerala holiday, thereby providing jobs, finance recovery and development for this beautiful region.
Why you should choose a Kerala holiday
Now more than ever, we hear about issues with over-tourism; where tourists are unwanted and unwelcome because of overwhelming visitor numbers. Yet, here is a beautiful country ready to welcome you with open arms; wanting you to come visit and experience the food, the culture and the beauty.
I am fortunate to travel all over the world and yet few places move me like India, perhaps why I keep being drawn back here. There is a special energy that calms the soul and always sends me back to the office with a spring in my step and a refreshed mind. I cannot recommend a visit here enough. Speak to any of our India specialists and this is found with all.
There is a country waiting to be explored most importantly there is a country wanting to be explored.
Kerala is open, Kerala awaits you.
Sent with love from the backwaters,
If you're interested in a Kerala holiday, chat to Thea and our friendly team of Luxury Travel Specialists on 0203 143 4293, or fill out our no-obligation enquiry form with ideas of your dream trip.