Tourism seeks greener pastures for its growth and in this century every dimension of human culture has the potential to become a ‘tourism product’. Gauging the potential of variety, the products that are offered in new age tourism varied from alternative healing methodologies, avenues for aesthetic development, discourses by spiritual gurus and innovative tourism practices. This variety in tourism product resulted in the evolution of centres of attraction, which are almost three times more growth potential than the classic tourism market. Kerala is considered as the first State in India, which had initiated steps to exploit the emerging market of new age tourism and is now providing with wide and varied centres of attraction like aesthetic development, experiential and personalised self-development, and alternative approaches to health care. This study is of the view that there is a need for Certification of these New Centers of tourist attractions which will ensure quality of service provide and finally will boost tourism in Kerala.
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The history of tourism industry depicts a picture of exponential growth and increasing diversity. The number of activities and experiences that can be categorised as tourism has increased significantly and now every dimension of human culture has the potential to become a ‘tourism product’. It is rightly opined that tourism seeks for greener pastures to grow and expand. It uniquely celebrates ‘differences’ in places and peoples to create novel experiences (Tejvir, 2004). Gauging the potential of variety, the products that are offered with new age tourism varied from alternative healing methodologies, avenues for aesthetic development, discourses by spiritual gurus and innovative tourism practices. This variety in tourism product resulted in the evolution of centres of attraction, which are almost three times more growth potential than the classic tourism market. Now tourist destinations are not seen as set of distinct natural, cultural, artistic and environmental resources but as an overall product, a complex and integrated package offered by a territory able to supply a holiday, which meets the varied needs of the tourist (Maria and Peter, 2006).
The New Age faction has grown significantly since its emergence in the 1950’s and 1960’s (Dallen and Daniel, 2006). Originally, it was a counter-cultural movement, interacting with other counter-cultural movements of that time, such as the ecology, hippie, and commune movements. During the last decades, spiritual and esoteric methods have been popularized and commercialized by an expanding market of literature and workshops. This has made New Age a socially accepted phenomenon and it has thus lost much of its anti-modernist and culture-critical character.
Objective of the study
The main objective framed for this study is to analyse the available potential of tourism in Kerala vis-à-vis to the New Age Tourists. The other objectives are as follows
To identify the basic motivations of tourists visiting Kerala.
To analyze the socio-demographic profile and the image of the destination from the tourist perspective.
To examine the activities undertaken by tourists and the usage of usage of tourism intermediaries and suppliers.
The new age destinations are facing a challenge to manage and organize their resources in order to supply a holiday experience that must be equal to or better than the alternative destinations experiences on the market (Maria and Peter, 2006). Hence Kerala can be considered as the first State in India, which had initiated steps to exploit the emerging market of new age tourism. As is rightly opined by Professor Peter Cochrane ‘Travel has long been with us. Virtual reality is well upon us. Experience is already being revealed in tourism to the extent that it may now be the key objective of today’s traveler’ (Khan, 1997). It is this urge of the present day traveler which made the tourism authorities in Kerala to developed wide and varied centers of attraction like aesthetic development (Kalamandalam – art, drama and music); experiential and personalised self-development, (courses on meditation, personal relationships and self knowledge and finally, courses on alternative approaches to health care (Ayurveda massage for body rejuvenation). Moreover, it can also be opined that the primary sector comprising of agricultural allied operations is stagnant and tourism is considered one of the alternative strategy that can be adopted to regenerate the economy especially in the rural area (Tribe, 1995). During the last decade, one can witness the development of tourist resorts where packages are provided where all the above amenities are clubbed together. The study area was restricted to Kovalam, Varkala, Guruvayoor, Vallikavu, Kumarakom and Munnar. Out of this Kovalam and Varkal are beach resorts, Munnar, the famous hill resort and Gurvayoor and Vallikavu are religious centers.
Both primary and secondary data was used for the study. Through the primary survey, we tried to analyse the demographic profile, visitor motivation, activities indulged at the centre and duration of stay. Statistical tools like correlation analysis were used to analyse the expenditure pattern and duration of stay of these visitors.
Results and Discussions
Driven by a buoyant economy and increase in the purchasing power of the middle class population along with the rising interest towards oriental culture and values, one can witness an increasing shift of tourism traffic towards India. From the Figure – 1.1, it is clear that the tourist flow to India is showing an increasing trend. Only the moths April to June can be considered as slump period while peal flow is observed during the tourist season October to February.
* = Provisional Source : Ministry of Tourism, GOI
Likewise, only the off season period between April-May, one can observe a short fall in the tourist earnings. The efforts made by the Central government along with the sufficient support of various State Governments to make tourism a yearlong affair, can be clearly observed in the Figure – 1.2 shown below.
* = Provisional Source : Ministry of Tourism, GOI
Though with vast potential and diversity in the products that can be offered by India, yet it ranks only twenty-second. Hence, India was not able to harness its multiplier effects for employment and poverty eradication. The recent policy changes like liberalization in aviation sector, rationalization of tax rates in the hospitality sector, tourist friendly visa regime etc is imperative to boost the tourism sector in India.
Tourism in Kerala
Domestic tourist arrivals (excluding pilgrims) rose from 52.40 lakhs in 2001 to 59.46 lakhs in 2005. Thus in five years, annual growth rate for foreign and domestic tourist arrivals are respectively 13.27% and 2.69%. According to the study of World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on tourism sector in the State, Travel and Tourism generates as much as 7.7% of GSP and 6.2% of total employment. Visitor exports (tourism receipts) are worked out as 14.3% of the total export of the State.
Figure : 1.3.
Earnings from Tourism
Source : Economic Review, 2006.
Figure – 1.3 provides a clear insight into the earnings from Tourism between 2001 – 2005. It can be observed that the foreign exchange earnings during 2005 is Rs. 1552.31 Crores and the total earnings from the tourism sector is Rs. 7738 Crores. The Economic Review highlights that the Tourism sector employs around 10 Lakhs persons in the State.
As per the estimates of World Tourism Organization (WTO), propelled by the tourism and business travel boom, India needs an additional 300,000 by the year 2020. When we analyzed the expansion plan of various tourist markets in India, it is observed that Kerala is considered as a potential tourist zone, yet the expansion plan should be further strengthened to accommodate the needs of the tourists. Figure 1.3 illustrates the new room supply expected to be included in the key tourist zones.
Potential of Spiritual Tourism in Kerala
It is the Greeks and the Romans who cultivated the quest of well being through Spiritual tourism. One can also observe that the followers of majority of the religions used to undertake spiritual journeys at least once in a year. It is rightly opined by Timothy Dallen that spiritual tourism as the “oldest and now one of the fastest-growing segments in the travel industry.” The new breed of spiritual travelers likes to enjoy spiritual enlightenment without giving up their comforts, which resulted in this being added as an important component of ‘New Age Tourism’ (Greg, 2007).
Various studies had pointed out that many thousands of tourists visit India for various types of spiritual interactions with ‘diety’ or ‘godman’. Though there are reservations against comodifying religion and to put holy places into spot light for mass consumption and to make holy things unholy, yet one can observe that the lines between mass tourists and religious tourists are becoming increasingly blurred. Even spiritual tourism is seen by many government and tourism officials as a way to either diversifying or save struggling economies (Dallen and Daniel, 2006).
There exist difference of opinion about whether spiritual tourism is related to escapism from the self to an entirely different environment that offers pure relaxation, or, an opportunity to renegotiate one’s place in the world and relationships. In extreme cases, it might be about confrontation of the world’s darker side and human tragedy, a reminder of one’s mortality and place in a universal cycle (Steiner and Reisinger, 2006). This kind of exploration arguably has philosophical and spiritual dimensions, which can make one’s minor troubles, seem relatively insignificant. Katusuhiko Yazaki who is the Japanese mail-order multimillionaire opined that ‘We cannot find true meaning in life by occupying spacious residences. At some point people will need to raise their desires to a higher level’ (Khan, 1997). His illusion is that we have material possessions but for fulfillment, we need something beyond them, which urged the present day traveler to undertake spiritual journeys of self-discovery. These spiritual journeys make the traveler feel that he is just a minute component in the massive super structure called Universe.
The study observed that majority of the tourists selected for the study falls in the age group 35 – 45 and 45 – 55. It is surprising to note that in both the groups majority of them is from the female group rather than male. This can be attributed to male ego, which refrain them speaking aloud about their personal life or difficulties. The study also observed that there exists a positive correlation (+.73) between income and expenditure on spiritual journeys. Majority of the tourists are from the higher income group due to which there demand for quality in services is much higher than the others. The Gurus or Godmans are of the view that when the tourist (patient) feels confident and energetic without any negative side effects literally provides them the assurance that the treatment had achieved its ultimate objective.
Potential of Health Tourism in Kerala
From the Medieval Age one can trace the elements of health tourism like the scrupulous attention paid to well-being of Romans and Greeks (Melanie and Catherine, 2006) along with the development of seaside and spa tourism of the 18th and 19th century by the European elite which continues even now though at a much faster rate. The House of Lords opined that the proliferation of wellness centers, holistic retreats, spas, spiritual pilgrimages, and complementary and alternative therapies is unprecedented (House of Lords – Report, 2000). Experts came forward with various theories to justify the sudden spurt in growth. Some of them are of the view that the anomie of the western capitalist societies, the breakdown of traditional religions and the fragmentation of the communities. Though the advancement made in the field of medical science had resulted in the development of curative care for major diseases, yet one can observe that the psychological and emotional problems of man are left untreated.
Depression is commonly cited as being one of the greatest disease burdens of the 21st century and suicide rates are rising, especially amongst young men (e.g., Mealanie Smith and Catherine Kelly 2005). This can be attributed to high pressure he should withstand in a performance related pay-package work environment.
But the only viable solution that is left for the mankind is to indulge in Health Tourism. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, deals with both the preventive and curative aspects of health in a most comprehensive way. Besides contributing to maintenance of health, it also has a wide range of therapeutic measures to combat various illnesses. Though the art of Ayurveda had spread around in the 6th century BC to Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea and Sri Lanka, yet one can witness in Kerala that this medical system is still being practised and perfected by the ‘Kalari Gurukals’ who are considered as the master of the traditional martial art of Kerala ‘Kalari’. Vogue magazine once opined that ‘Technology is destroying usâ€¦Nature has a remedy for every illness, an answer for every problem (Khan, 1999). It is from this view that the strength and growth of Ayurveda lies. Kerala is the only state in India, which can boast of making concerted efforts to promote health tourism in a big way, which has resulted in a substantial increase of visitor arrivals into the state. Kerala and ayurveda have virtually become synonymous with each other.
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The study observed that many of the health resorts are located in beach resorts like Kovalam and Varkala. Yet one can also observe that the serene hill resorts of Kerala also attract health tourists in sizeable numbers. Like all other form of tourism, Health Tourism also attracts mainly the affluent sections of the society. It is observed that both man and woman of various age groups are showing considerable interest in ayurveda and body rejuvenation therapies. Kerala can also boast of having the best pool of ayurvedic physicians and masseurs who are effectively trained and added to the resource pool by the many number of ayurvedic hospitals. When we made a correlation analysis with that of the total expenditure incurred by the tourists, it was observed that the correlation value is 0.89. Though the study observed that many of the ayurvedic health resorts are available in developed countries yet majority of them feel that it only at the origin of the practices, they feel that they had received optimum service. The study observed that though there is negative opinion about the effectiveness of certain therapies of ayurveda yet the people are of the view that it has placebo effect.
Potential of Culture Tourism in Kerala
Cultural tourism has been identified as one of the most rapidly growing areas of global tourism demand. Cultural tourism is about people traveling for cultural motivations and is measured by determining whether the travelers attended activities and venues such as festivals, exhibitions, theatre performances or historic sites. Kerala can boast of a unique Dravidian culture and tradition. It is because of the uniqueness, Kerala can boast of a unique standard of living, which is very different from the rest of India. This unique model is popularly known as the Kerala Model of Development. Hence both domestic and foreign tourists want to have a first hand experience about the social and cultural wealth of Kerala. Along with various historical sites, Kerala also boast of unique centers of learning where can both witness the art forms of Kerala. Moved by the unique nature, many of the tourists got enrolled in these centers of learning like Kalamandalam. The study observed that though various tour packages had included short duration performance by the traditional artists, only the dedicated ones like to purse these art forms. The short duration performance also enhanced the sales prospects of art souvenirs of Kerala. From the table given below, one can observe that the highest consumer group of cultural tourism in Kerala is the foreign tourists.
Table – 1.1
Trend in Expenditure Pattern of Foreign Tourists
Shopping for Souvenirs
The other findings of the study are as follows.
Though both the foreign and domestic tourists are satisfied with their visits, yet majority of them opined that there is still scope for improvement.
From the study, it is clear that the tourists irrespective of the area to which they belong, depends on internet for their information needs.
The study also observed that spiritual and cultural tourism is most preferred by domestic tourists than international tourists.
The period of stay is higher for the foreign tourists than the domestic. It ranges between two to four days for the foreign tourists while majority of the domestic had a shorter stay of less than three days.
The size of the group comprising the domestic tourist is much higher than the foreign tourist. Hence it is clear that the emphasis for domestic tourist is quantity and for the foreign tourist it is quality. This also conveys that for the domestic tourist, time is an important criterion whereas for the foreign they don’t give undue importance to time factor.
Finally, it can be opined that that the foreign tourist is very selective about the type of accommodation whereas the domestic tourists are satisfied with the available accommodation at the area.
Conclusion & Suggestions
It can be opined that just as (old) mass tourism is not necessarily unsustainable, in all circumstances, new or alternative forms of tourism are not inevitably panacea in all situations. Indeed neither form of tourism is sustainable unless an appropriate planning and management regime is in place (Moscardo et.al, 1998). Much of the research till date focused on service quality in the hospitality sector, and in particular, measurement of customer perceptions of quality. There is little or no effort integrating quality into all aspects of managing tourism enterprise (Derek et.al, 2003). One of the views that emerged from this research is that majority of tourists visit Kerala for relaxation and rejuvenation. It was observed that both domestic and foreign tourist on their arrival at the destination, a sense of anti-climax prevailed in their minds. This is due to the gap between what that is propagated and what is actually practiced. The study observed that Certification of these New Centers of tourist attractions should be incorporated which will ensure the quality of service provide and finally will boost the tourist traffic to Kerala. These New Centers should adopt ‘Co-opetetion’ strategies whereby the new or minor centers should co-operate with one another to achieve a sustained flow of tourists to these centers (Edgell, 2006). It can be concluded that it is due to the availability of diversified products that ensures that tourism still thrives in Kerala economy. Finally this study is of the view that still the government lacks a holistic view towards tourism development in Kerala. The authorities consider competitiveness and attractiveness as different entities but it is rather supply and demand side of tourism. Only through such a holistic approach, policy makers will have a clear understanding about what the tourists are looking for and what the stakeholders are investing in. Though there is an increase in the employment for the local community due to the appearance of tourism, yet this study is of the view that there one can witness conflicts between the host and service providers. Hence it is suggested that the onus for bridging the gap should be on the shoulders of the service providers and the government. They should try to make the centers of tourist attraction especially the villages a self-sufficient one. The growing needs of tourist sector like meat, egg, fish etc can be sourced from the village itself rather than depending on external markets which will ensure the ‘trickle down effect’ and sustainability in the long run.
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