The Kerala tourism industry, which brought in more than Rs 45,000 crore and contributed around 12 percent to the state GDP in 2019, is reeling under heavy losses during the Covid pandemic and was in for more shock when the state budget made a fresh allocation of a mere Rs 30 crore.
Kerala’s new Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal, while presenting the revised budget for 2021-22 on Friday, has made two allocations – Rs 50 crore for marketing, and Rs 30 crore for rejuvenation of the industry which is in the doldrums.
Talking to IANS, Tomy Pullikattil, a leading houseboat operator at the famed Vembanad lake in Alappuzha, said that the allocation was a shock for all of them.
“Just look the allocation… a mere Rs 30 crore for an industry which was bringing in Rs 45,000 crore. The industry here employs 1.5 million people and since the beginning of the first wave last year, it has come to a standstill,” he said.
In the state budget presented by then Finance Minister Thomas Isaac in January this year for the present fiscal, there was an allocation of Rs 400 crore and outgoing Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran had promised a short, medium, and long-term package for the industry.
“Everything is only on paper and none have got the benefit of any package that has been announced. We even requested to waive the numerous fees that we pay to the various government departments, but nothing has happened so far,” lamented the houseboat owner.
After the first wave, the tourism industry had spent huge amounts for repairs and maintenance of houseboats and had started to operate in a modest wave, when the second wave came very hard on them.
With one full season gone with Covid and the upcoming fresh season which opens in November also tentatively placed on account of the raging second wave and a possible third wave being spoken about, the fortunes of the otherwise money-spinning tourism industry is tantalizingly poised in Kerala.
However, the industry’s hopes rest on youthful new Tourism Minister P.A. Mohammed Riyaz, who is the son-in-law of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and has already held one round of meeting with stakeholders and has promised them the state government will be with them. But his promise failed to meet their expectation as per the budgetary allocation.