Sabarimala pilgrims from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are now opting to stay in houseboats in Kerala before making their journey back home, adding to 15 per cent jump in Kerala tourism. It is a case of sheer coincidence. Thanks to the Sabarimala season coinciding with the tourist season, Kerala has witnessed a 15 per cent growth in domestic tourist arrivals.

The tourist season starts from November and continues till January when a number of pilgrims head for Kerala. This has helped the business especially of houseboat owners in Alleppey district.  Rojes Joseph, assistant general manager sales & marketing, Carmelia Haven Plantation Resort & Spa says, “In the last four months we have a lot of Sabarimala pilgrims using one of our six houseboats. It is a new trend never seen before. Earlier, pilgrims would just return but now are spending a day or two in the backwaters before returning to their home State.

While Kerala Tourism has gone on an overdrive in the last two years by projecting the State in all possible tourism and trade fairs, the Sabarimala pilgrims from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have boosted the tourism in the tiny State.  P Muraleedharan, tourism information officer, Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala said, “The hard-selling of Kerala is paying. We have showcased the State in 44 domestic trade and tourism fairs and in 19 international fairs.” He was speaking at the trade partnership meet held in the city on Tuesday.

The number of hotel rooms in the State has also gone up. There are 60,000 rooms and 800 home stays spread across the State. Reji, a marketing manager with Alex Homes, says he is looking to tie-up with tour operators in the city to boost domestic tourism in Kerala. There are 60 hoteliers and houseboat operators who are interacting with 150 tour operators from the city. In 2013, about 3.5 lakh people visited Kerala from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.