Making a splash in Wayanad

Making a splash in Wayanad

Tourism entrepreneurs try to cash in on monsoon

Making a splash in Wayanad

Promoters have put together a programme comprising outdoor events like mud football.

Rains in Kerala have inspired art, popular music and are a favoured expression to channel romance and nostalgia in cinema of the land. But the south-west monsoon is also coldly dubbed “lean season” by the state’s tourism industry.

The thrills of chase-the-monsoon trips inspire the roadies but four months of rains in Kerala – between June and September – have invariably meant falling occupancy rates at hotels and resorts in the state.

The Department of Tourism (DoT) in the state has been on concerted efforts to reverse the monsoon lull by promoting the season as a time to be one with nature.
Wayanad, a land rich in legend and wildlife, was almost a default pick for the initiative. The idea was to debunk perceptions. For starters, the temptation to limit monsoon as a post-card image, best viewed from far.

It’s an evolving programme that proposes to change the tourist’s attitude to rains and the results have started to surface, according to local tourism entrepreneurs. A month ahead of the expected onset of monsoon in Kerala, the Wayanad Tourism Organisation (WTO) is on the last-lap preparations for “Splash”, its annual monsoon carnival. Splash 2014, the sixth edition of the carnival, is expected to bring more than 400 tour operators to Wayanad, from July 11 to 13 to chalk out strategies and promote monsoon destinations in the district.

The WTO is a non-profit organisation comprising tourism entrepreneurs in the district that promotes Wayanad as a brand and devises strategies to improve the resources and tourist infrastructure in its destinations. The WTO has also been the force behind initiatives, including the international mountain biking competition, in Wayanad.

The organisation aims at optimising the event’s business potential. Resorts and home-stays in Kodagu, Mysore and Nilgiris will also be represented in Splash this year.
The B2B meeting is an integral part of the event that showcases properties and products pegged to the tourism industry. But with each passing edition the carnival – a joint venture of the Government of Kerala, the Kerala Tourism and the WTO – is also emerging as a popular tourist event, complete with an array of outdoor events. Tour operators and res­o­rts in Wayanad have their own individual schedules of rafting, kayaking and adventure trails.

In addition, the promoters of Splash have put together a programme comprising outdoor events, including mud football. K Ravindran, General Secretary of WTO, told Deccan Herald that dome­stic tourists had taken a strong liking for the sport in previous editions of the carnival.

“Ten years ago, we were struggling to attract tourists to Wayanad during the monsoon season. After five editions of the carnival, there is a feeling that people are opening up to the idea of being out in the rains and having a good time. Football in the mud has found many takers… the challenge will now be in identifying similar activities and packaging Wayanad during the monsoon as an experience,” Ravindran said.

The Kerala Tourism promotes Splash as a calendar fixture and the WTO hopes to build on the credibility that the government’s participation brings to the event.

Tour operators are also looking at the potential of international tourists – especially from the Gulf countries – during the monsoon months as the expe­rience of rains in Kerala is gaining in “brand value”.

High-profile signature events like Splash could lure the high-end tourists but the monsoon months are still marked as dull for the middle and low-end hospitality players in Wayanad. Yet, the WTO looks at a start with Splash that could ultimately translate to better returns across the industry.

Tour operators attending the event are from across segments and are largely from the northern states. “When Splash was launched in 2009, we had hotels and resorts that reported zero occupancy. In five years, things have changed and we now have properties that clock up to 90 per cent occupancy. It’s still a slow turn but the change is visible,” Ravindran said.

The carnival will also have on its sidelines a tug-of-war event in the mud, programmes that showcase local culture and art forms, apart from indigenous farming skills.
An off-road rally along the jungle tracks that made its debut in the last edition of Splash is tipped to return this year. Seminars and meet-ups involving travel writers and tourists are also planned as part of the three-day event.

“Events featuring the tribal communities and their monsoon rituals and customs in Wayanad were part of the fixture. But there was some resistance against these events and we decided to drop them. Still, local talent and reso­urces drive most of the event’s cultural and outdoor activities,” Ravindran said.

The WTO is also working on strategies to make the tourist in Wayanad more comfortable when out in the rains.

The organisation is also in the process of designing special rain apparels for tourists arriving at the destination.