A section of ecotourism promoters and local landowners owing allegiance to the Kakkayam Tourism Samrakshana Samiti has called upon the Tourism Department take control of the ticket counters, manned by the Forest Department in some locations, for better use of funds for local tourism development.
They alleged that the department had been opposing all facility upgrades in ecotourism destinations in the name of protecting ecology, and that it was hardly in favour of attracting sightseers. A local body member and promoter from Kakakkayam where the department manages a ticket counter, said the huge revenue straight away went into the department’s account, and that it hardly brought any productive development to the region.
“If the Tourism Department is put in charge, we are sure that the funds can be invested easily for the development of the location,” he pointed out.
Series of protests
“Last year, local residents with the support of Koorachundu panchayat had staged a series of protests for the relocation of the ticket counter.
The agitation was organised in protest against restrictions imposed by the department on free movement of even local landholders in the region in the name of tourism management,” said George Jose, a resident of the region.
The Forest Department had even closed down the counter for a while following the agitation, he added.
The promoters’ collective is also planing to take up the poor state of various other ecotourism destinations managed by the Forest Department. Either the department has to do something about it, or it should hand over the management to the Tourism Department, they argued.
“The demand to take over the complete destination management activities at Kakkayam by the Tourism Department is not new. What we have been witnessing here is just a tussle between the Forest and the Kerala State Electricity Board over the ownership of several scenic locations at Kakkayam, which never supports tourism development,” said Vincy Thomas, president, Koorachundu grama panchayat. She asserted that the panchayat too would support the local demand and approach the State government for a favourable action.
Meanwhile, Tourism Department officials said that since all ecotourism spots were under its territory, the management of ticket counters alone in such regions by the Tourism Department is not likely to be approved by the government.
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