Bekal is destination next in 'God's Own Country'
Bekal (Kasaragod), May 10 (IANS) After firmly placing stations such as Kovalam and Kumarakom on the global tourism map, the Kerala government has picked this idyllic town of beaches and backwaters as destination next for visitors to 'God's Own Country'.
The 'Know Bekal' campaign to kick-off the tourism initiative in this pristine and scenic town was launched Thursday at the Vivanta by Taj resort, not far from the landmark Bekal Fort built by the Portuguese in 1640 and spread over 40 acres.
'Bekal is the next amazing destination for tourism in Kerala. Our efforts that started 17 years ago have now begun to bear fruit. Our top priority is to improve road, rail and air connectivity,' Chief Minister Oomen Chandy told IANS here.
He was referring to the state-run Bekal Resorts Development Corp that was set up in 1995 with the specific task of capacity-building and infrastructure development here.
'Where else can you find beaches, backwaters and hills all within a few kilometers?' asked the chief minister, referring to the variety of options offered by this town, which has settings similar to Goa.
'Bekal received some 3.2 lakh tourists (320,000) last year. We would like the numbers to go up to more than six lakh by 2015. That is our target, that is our aim.'
The chief minister also said this resort destination was the fifth to come up under the Kerala government's drive to promote sustainable and responsible tourism -- after Kovalam, Kumarakom, Wayanad and Thekkady.
Otherwise on National Highway 17, less than 10 km from Kasaragod in north Kerala, Bekal is also easily accessible by rail network, some eight kilometres away. The nearest airport is at Mangalore in Karnataka, 70 km north.
Talks are on with the central government to upgrade the railway station, improve the national highway and build an airstrip. To develop resorts, 230 acres were acquired and a part of it was allotted for six private projects.
'As of now, two resorts have already come up Vivanta by Taj and the Lalit Resort and Spa. Four more projects are under various stages of development,' said Rani George, director of Kerala Tourism.
'Around 50 other properties in the area offer around 1,000 rooms. You also have home-stays villas and Ayurvedic centres. Accommodation will be expanded and people are welcome to invest, especially in budget hotels,' George told IANS.
Detailing the major attractions in and around Bekal, she not only referred to the majestic Bekal Fort, but also those at Hosdurg and Chadragiri.
'There are also many stunning beaches, backwaters and hill stations in and around Bekal,' she added.
Ancient temples and mosques, handicraft like lamps, utensils and curios made of bell metal, and preservation of rich culture like Theyyam dance form and Kalaripayattu martial arts are other attractions, George said.
'Most other existing resort destinations are close to urban centres and therefore over-developed. Bekal, on the other hand, is still virgin and pristine.'
(Arvind Padmanabhan can be contacted at email@example.com)
Read More: Kovalam | Kerala | Poonch Fort | Allahabad Fort | Agra Fort Ho | Kerala-j | Fort St George | Dindigul Fort | Padmanabhapuram Fort | Vellore Fort | Kasaragod | Kasaragod Rs | Bekal | Kerala Estate | Tripunithura Fort | Kumarakom | Kumarakom East | Kumarakom South | Kumarakom North | Fort William
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