Thiruvananthapuram: Tourists hoping to usher in the New Year amid Kerala`s laidback charms would do well to have a plan B ready - if they haven`t booked already. Most hotels, resorts and even houseboats are sold out for Christmas, and only divine intervention can get you a place in `god`s own country`.
As a result of the holiday rush, tariffs have touched stratospheric levels. Plush resorts in the backwater havens of Alappuzha and Kumarakom are charging upwards of Rs.75,000 a night for the New Year eve.
Likewise, travel agents too are running from pillar to post to get reservations for their clients at premier destinations like Kovalam, Kumarakom, Alappuzha, Thekkady and Munnar.
Tomy Pulikattil, who owns a dozen houseboats in Alappuzha, said anyone who manages to book a houseboat now should consider himself extremely lucky.
"We are finding it hard to accommodate people who have not made a booking. The peak season would begin from Dec 20 and continue till the first week of January. We are fully booked and now people are calling us daily to see if there have been any cancellations," Pulikattil told IANS.
Alappuzha, popularly known as the Venice of the East, has the largest concentration of houseboats, numbering more than 400.
Tariff for the peak season has gone up by 25 percent. A two bedroom houseboat would cost you about Rs.20,000 a day.
Tourism has become one of the biggest money spinners in industry-starved Kerala. The tourism department says both foreign and domestic tourist arrivals for the first half of this year have shown a rise.
Around 335,000 overseas tourists arrived here till June 2010, a rise of 13.9 percent over the corresponding period last year. Domestic tourist arrivals too grew by 5.59 percent to reach 4.1 million.
No wonder hotel and resort owners are in a festive mood.
"All our rooms have been fully booked for the second half of this month and so is the case with resorts in and around Kovalam. Unlike in the previous season, this time we feel that there are more domestic tourists," said K. Sudish Kumar, who owns a premier resort at Kovalam beach.
"Moreover, we hope the rains lashing the state halt briefly so that tourists can enjoy the beaches."
However, tour guide Koshy John sounded a word of caution, saying the lingering effects of economic slowdown were still visible.
"The free flow of foreign tourists that was visible from the end of November last year has not happened this time. But I am told that foreign tourists` January bookings look healthy," he said.
"On its part, the state government also should promote newer destinations because the premier destinations are choked during the holiday season."