Alleppey/Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), Apr 17 (ANI): As northern India sizzles in scorching summer, most of those bit by the travel bug are making a beeline for tourist spots Kerala.
With its fleet of black-hulled houseboats, the backwaters of Kerala entice the tourists, both domestic and international, to 'God's Own Country'.
Most of the domestic tourists arriving in Kerala are from Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal.
"We are from Punjab. We have chosen this destination, as backwaters are a different kind of experience. All the other tourists generally go to the higher altitudes and all other places but we want to have a soothing experience and we are really looking forward to the backwaters of Kerala," said Vikram Singh, a tourist.
A typical backwater cruise takes tourists on a 40-km journey through the Vembanad Lake, India's longest, which is spread over 1,512 sq km.
The cruises have packages tailored for all budgets with a one-night cruise costing from Rs 3,000-25,000 as houseboats now come equipped with power showers in bio-toilets, LCD television sets, air-conditioners, AC-fitted lounges and even jacuzzis. They even have chefs onboard to prepare some of Kerala's culinary specials.
Tour operators say the period from April to September is a good time to attract domestic tourists when there is a lull in international arrivals.
"Actually the foreign tourists are coming in the months of December, January and February. And the rates will be very comfortable in April and May also. It will not be that high and it will be affordable for the domestic people also. After the examinations (are over), people come in large numbers to have a nice day in our houseboats, to see the serene beauty of the backwaters which is unique," said Abhilash Sreekumar, proprietor of Aria Holidays, a houseboat cruise operator.
Meanwhile, the state Tourism Department authorities have decided to extend the experience of these floating hotels beyond Alleppey, and plans to give licenses for operating houseboats in Ashtamudi Lake in nearby Kollam district as well.
Authorities are creating new landing points and also developing new backwater circuits in other districts. More houseboats are being constructed.
"It has been structured as luxury resorts or luxury segment properties. And a typical houseboat cruise starts during the day, move along the backwaters to see the village community life, spend the night there and wake up to the early morning sun in the houseboat itself," said M Sivasankar, Director, Kerala Tourism Department in provincial capital Thiruvananthapuram.
In 2008, Kerala witnessed 7.6 million domestic tourist arrivals, showing a growth of 14.28 per cent from the previous year. (ANI)