Holiday, with curbs: States chalk out ‘caravan tourism’ for domestic visitors

The number of domestic tourists visiting Kerala has almost reached pre-pandemic levels, prompting the state to push for initiatives such as caravans and caravan parks to lure tourists from within the country, according to a top official of Kerala Tourism, which is currently running a pan-India campaign to promote tourism in the state.

Kerala Tourism is aiming to increase the average number of days domestic travellers spend in the state from the current 4-5 days to 6-7 days, said VR Krishna Teja, director, Kerala Tourism. One of the ways in which the agency is hoping to achieve that is the introduction of caravans and caravan parks for families that would not want to rely on public transport for travelling across the state.

Families could rent these caravans – available both in self driving and chauffeur driven modes — for travelling across the state, making stops at designated caravan parks where food and other amenities would be provided to them.

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Himachal Pradesh has also recently announced that it aims to develop caravan tourism circuits in the state to attract more domestic and foreign tourists. “The caravan project is based on a public-private partnership model with the state offering subsidies for promoters of caravans and caravan parks,” said Teja. “So far more than 150 people have registered offering more than 350 caravans and more than 90 people have registered to open caravan parks.” The state is planning to open more than 100 caravan parks soon, he added.

Acknowledging that there might be a shortfall in the number of foreign tourists visiting the state owing to the situation in Russia and Ukraine, high airfares and global travel restrictions due to the pandemic, Teja said an increasing number of domestic tourists could potentially substitute for the shortfall in the number of foreign visitors.

“Regarding foreign tourists, a lot depends on India Tourism and the Central government’s decisions. As soon as the country opens up more, we are ready to cater to the influx of foreign tourists into the state,” Teja told The Indian Express.

A number of states have shifted their tourism focus on to domestic visitors, primarily owing to pandemic-related curbs. An increase in airfares to popular foreign tourist locations has also meant that Indians are looking at destinations within the country for travelling. A boost in domestic tourism is expected to help the tourism and hospitality sector in India, ravaged by the coronavirus crisis over the last two years.

“The domestic market has always been a key segment in making Kerala’s tourism a throbbing enterprise. In the post-COVID phase also its role will be paramount. It is this belief that forms the essence of our pan-India promotional campaigns,” Krishna Teja said.

For states like Goa, whose economy is largely based on tourism, the Russia-Ukraine conflict could mean that tourists from these nations may not flock the coastal state until tensions persist, experts said. However, that may not mean that the state’s tourism will suffer, thanks to domestic tourists.

“Over the last few months, Goa’s tourism has been largely driven by domestic tourism and destination weddings. There is no reason why that will change any time soon now that things are opening up,” Nilesh Shah, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, told The Indian Express.

Shah said that Russia had started sending charter flights to Goa every 10 days starting from December last year and the last flight landed in the state on March 3, despite an escalation in tensions between the country and Ukraine. “The next charter flight is scheduled for March 12 and we will have to see if that comes,” Shah said.

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