The picturesque canals and the tree-lined pathways of Kumarakom, which had been lying empty for months on end after the nationwide lockdown, have begun to throb with visitors once again.
The looming long-weekend that coincides with the Christmas-New Year season has provided a welcome boost to tourism in the village destination, which continues to reel under the impact of a COVID-19 induced lockdown.
Majority of the hotel and resort operators here have witnessed a near 100 percent bookings since the second week of December, bringing some relief to the stressed hospitality sector.
But with the rooms booked far below the usual rates, the business margins too have fallen sharply.
“The bookings have increased gradually since the reopening a couple of months ago and it has now hit a peak with the Christmas season. The overall business, however, remains well under the volumes recorded usually during the same period in the previous years when the village gets jampacked with tourists,” said K. Arun Kumar, secretary, the Chamber of Vembanad Hotels and Resorts (CVHR).
With expectations mounting on the reopening of international borders, the hospitality industry remains hopeful of the business gaining momentum once the foreign clients begin to flow in.
“The current spate of bookings is expected to last only till the first half of January and from there on, we will need the foreign clients to push on,” he added.
Meanwhile, the visitors have begun trickling into the village interiors as part of the village-life experience packages offered by the Responsible Tourism Mission Kerala. Last week, the Mission had as many as 20 guests – mostly from other States, while it is set to receive 40 more in the coming week.
“We are on a clear path to recovery and this may well hit the right track with the ongoing season,” said K.Rupesh Kumar, Coordinator, RT mission.
While the tourists within the State are looking to explore the new destinations like Vaikom or Punnayurkulam, the guests from other States have mostly stuck to conventional destinations like Kumarakom, he added.
The 120 house boats and the 100-odd shikara and motorboats s too commenced operations.
Tourism in Kumarakom has survived devastating crises before, including the 2018 mega floods and the Nipah scare. But the impact of COVID-19 is beyond comparison as a majority of its local populace, who are employed in the tourism industry, went without work for months.