The Indian state of Kerala has launched the country’s first-ever caravan park and promised to open more as the latest draw of flocking Europeans only to sit in houseboats on the backwaters of the coastal region that prides itself as “God’s Own Country.”
Hoteliers eagerly participated in the government initiative that promises to fund businesses that plan to launch brand-new luxurious campers that are rarely seen on India’s rocky roads.
Around 300 campers and 85 parks have been logged into the project since February, starting this project in Kerala. Authorities also offered vacation packages and “caravan safaris” as sweeteners.
Local hotelier Prasad Manjali billed it as a blue-chip venture and said it would bring the first European-standard caravan parks to Kerala.
“We are trying to create a very niche tourism concept which is called the caravan tourism,” Manjali said, launching the first park across 25 acres with each bay boasting of a gazebo, lawn, barbecues, and charging stations.
Tourists, especially those from France and Germany, are drawn to Kerala due to its natural beauty, exotic temples, charming towns, and religious harmony, which earned it the title “God’s Own Country.”
Tourism minister Mohammed Riyas said holiday-makers renting caravans could stay clear of Covid-19 infections that dropped to 600 on April 1, down from earlier peak levels of tens of thousands every day across Kerala.
“That is why it has become a very great success,” he told visitors from Germany in an online chat and also added the service would no longer be a toy of the rich in the state of 35 million people.
Doubts have surfaced as Kerala business tycoon Jose Dominic said the project could “bog down” in Kerala’s mud-bound and winding tracks. However, he insisted on giving it a chance to test its popularity against cruising boats that earned millions of Euros from European honeymooners.
“We think they are inappropriate as much of Kerala is beyond the reach of such heavy vehicles,” Dominic, who runs the CGH Earth luxury hotel chain, told RFI.
“The purpose is also defeated because caravan travelers look for privacy,” he added, arguing a large group in a single bus did not fit the definition of caravan tourism.
Others believe that diesel-guzzling caravans will leave a huge carbon footprint on the region renowned for cardamom and tea plantations, inland lagoons, and the 550 km of sun-soaked beach.
“Unlike foreign tourists, Indians prefer to keep the air conditioning of the vehicle running throughout. This could affect the pristine locales,” George Scaria, an industry expert, was quoted as saying.