Exempting tourism sector from the dawn-to-dusk hartal called by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the State on Monday came as a relief to tourism stakeholders who have been trying to overcome the slump in tourist arrivals and the effects of demonetisation.
The help desks set up by Kerala Tourism at its headquarters here and the information centres in the districts came in handy when vehicles ferrying tourists were blocked by hartal supporters. Over 50 calls seeking help were received at the headquarters.
The police acted swiftly to facilitate the journey of Australian tourist Kenneth Horton who was held up at Vizhinjam by LDF activists while he was proceeding from Muloor to Alappuzha in a cab around 10.30 a.m.
The tourism officials and the police swung into action at many places, including Munnar, when tourists were trapped in roads and in Alappuzha when houseboats did not operate.
The disembarking of 1,000-odd tourists from the Italian cruise liner AIDAbella in Kochi and their journey to the Nedumbassery airport to Germany and Britain went off smoothly. The shifting of another group who came by flight to the Cochin Port Trust terminal to board AIDAbella for a 20-day cruise also went without hitches.
The inconvenience to tourists was despite the directions given by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to all concerned, including the police, to ensure that the tourism sector was not affected by the hartal.
The intervention by him and Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran was in response to an ‘SOS’ by Tourism Principal Secretary V. Venu on the likely inconvenience to tourists, loss of business, and the likely erosion of brand equity of Kerala Tourism.
Director of Tourism U.V. Jose told The Hindu that the department could intervene in cases where assistance was sought. “Drivers were willing to ferry tourists as security was assured,” Association of Tourism Trade Organisations, India, president Anish Kumar P.K. said.
Chairman, Tourism Industry Kerala, E.M. Najeeb said it was a great step forward for the survival of the industry and hoped the exemption would continue during future hartals as well.