Two years ago, Kerala launched a caravan policy with the aim of catapulting caravanning in the region onto the global tourism map. Around 10 caravans were introduced as part of this tourism project, which was billed as the next game changer in the industry.
However, the project has struggled to attract tourists, and a significant number of caravans are now being used for other purposes, such as marriage functions and medical tourism.
An entrepreneur in north Kerala has been renting out caravans for these alternative uses to meet daily expenses and repay loan installments. The daily rent for a caravan ranges from ₹20,000 to ₹25,000.
Despite the initial enthusiasm for the project, with the Tourism department receiving applications from investors to operate 439 caravans and 146 caravan parks, only 10 caravans are currently operational in the state, along with a caravan park at Wagamon.
One of the major setbacks for the sector is the absence of private caravan parks at idyllic locations, according to a report by The Hindu.
The delay in obtaining a no-objection certificate from departments to start caravan parks has also dissuaded investors. An official has stated that the project will not take off as long as private investors shy away from the sector.
One entrepreneur who invested ₹2.5 crore to set up a caravan park at Malampuzha had his project served a stop memo by local body officials and then by Irrigation department officials when the project was about to be commissioned last year. Despite waging a legal battle, he is yet to receive the NOC for commissioning the project.
The caravan policy was launched with high hopes of boosting tourism in Kerala. However, the challenges faced by the project highlight the complexities of implementing new tourism initiatives.
The experiences of the entrepreneurs involved underscore the need for clear and supportive regulatory frameworks to facilitate the growth of innovative tourism sectors like caravanning.
Despite the current challenges, the potential of caravan tourism in Kerala remains significant. The state’s diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage make it an attractive destination for tourists seeking a unique and flexible travel experience.
With the right support and infrastructure, caravan tourism could still become a major contributor to Kerala’s tourism industry.
While the caravan project in Kerala has faced significant challenges, it represents an innovative approach to tourism that aligns with global trends towards more flexible and personalized travel experiences. The experiences of this project offer valuable lessons for future tourism initiatives in the state.