Thiruvananthapuram, December 13: The next time Kerala’s dramatic countryside, bustling backwaters or serene, rolling hill stations appear on your itinerary, you might be tempted to opt for a flooded self-contained ‘house on wheels’ of facilities that give the feeling of a home away from home. Whether you’re a romantic couple, a family looking for good times together away from the hustle and bustle of a city, or a backpacker looking for adventure, caravans offer the freedom of languorous, sustainable and responsible travel, in the greater concern for hygiene, safety and social distancing.
Caravan tourism is a concept that has gained immense popularity across the world due to the freedom and flexibility it offers. With the pandemic situation keeping everyone on their toes, the segment now offers the advantage of an absolutely safe travel bubble from home to destination and back.
It is now seen as the go-to solution for anyone who finds corona travel to be risky and hassle-free. Few of those who like to travel prefer the long delays at the airport and the prospect of using public restrooms. Eating out and traveling in air-conditioned trains with strangers whose health status one may have no idea also tend to make people tense and nervous.
Caravan Tourism, powered by stylish customized vehicles and equipped with all the trappings for a smooth ride and a comfortable stay, is expected to be the next big thing for Kerala Tourism after houseboats in three decades. The state government has already announced a comprehensive and stakeholder-friendly caravan tourism policy under the Keravan Kerala brand, promising visitors a personalized and closer to nature travel experience.
“By taking advantage of Kerala’s inherent assets of natural beauty and tourism-friendly culture, Caravan Tourism has immense reach for the state. Apart from providing a refreshing experience to tourists, local communities stand to gain by enabling them to showcase their culture and products to visitors,” said Mr. VR Krishna Teja, Director of Tourism.
The policy envisions touring caravans as being safe, comfortable and fully compliant with local and national regulations, providing a sense of customer friendliness. It also involves the development of caravan parks as private, public or joint ventures. A park, which needs at least 50 cents of land, should have space to accommodate five caravans at a time with facilities such as food parks, rest rooms, an activity area and a lodge for drivers.
Mr. Abraham George, Managing Director of Intersight Tours and Travels, believes there will be good demand for caravans as the recent trend shows that most tourists come as couples or families and want to go to places less frequented. The travel agency is currently designing hybrid packages that include caravan tourism. “It will be a big hit with honeymooners because of the privacy and security the caravans offer,” he said.
Mr Riyaz UC, Managing Director of Spiceland Holidays, is also delighted as he believes caravan tourism can be presented as both a standalone product and a hybrid package. “The introduction of caravan tourism at this stage will provide a much needed boost to tourism in the state which has yet to fully recover from the impact of the COVID pandemic,” he said. Spiceland is also exploring the possibility of introducing a multiple-stop model to reduce costs.
Some of these motorhomes are also luxurious and offer a full range of amenities: queen-size beds, shower and toilet, solar-powered geysers, air conditioners, heaters and kitchenette with electric and gas burners, mini-fridge, an oven microwaves and smart TV screens. The list does not end there. They also have motorized windows, a portable barbecue and an awning so you can enjoy the weather outside. Sofas, recliners, folding tables and convertible beds to save space, ambient lighting to enhance the mood and Wi-Fi-enabled smart entertainment systems add to the comfort.
Taking inspiration from Kerala’s caravan tourism policy, automotive major Bharat Benz has already rolled out its world-class, road-ready tourist caravan, while Bengaluru-based start-up Campervan Camps and Holidays India Pvt Ltd , recently introduced its premium truck. motorhome, LuxeCamper.
Given the natural beauty of God’s Country dotted with stunning landscapes ranging from backwaters to hill stations, caravans and caravan parks have the potential to be a game changer in the tourism sector. The initial demand in this niche segment is expected to come from domestic tourists and then from inbound tourists who can savor the experience of village life in a place where they stop. Whether it is a village with expanses of paddy fields, a fishing hamlet or a center of industry or traditional crafts, they can closely observe the daily tasks of the community.
The initiative also opens the possibility of transforming accessible but unexplored places in the state into alluring destinations. It is designed to make tourism a sustainable activity that would bring benefits to local communities and also increase opportunities for the industry.
The experiential feature, directly linked to Kerala’s successful Responsible Tourism (RT) initiative, has the potential to generate employment and business opportunities for local communities, local self-government institutions, small and micro-enterprises, artists and the collective efforts of women like Kudumbashree.