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Kerala Tourism recently announced a comprehensive, stakeholder-friendly Caravan Tourism Policy, largely to meet demands and preferences of tourists in the post-pandemic world. The two major components of this policy are Tourism Caravans (specially-built vehicles for travel, leisure and stay) and Caravan Parks (designated places to park the vehicles and enable the visitors to spend a night or a day or station for an extended period to explore the destination).
Although caravan tourism has been part of the future roadmap of India for some time now, its adoption has been rather slow over the years. It was in the 2009-10 Annual Report published by the Union Ministry of Tourism that caravan tourism and its role as a niche product was first recognised. The policy covered Recreational Vehicle (RV), Campervans, Motor Homes etc.
"Caravans are unique tourism products, which promote family oriented tours even at circuits/ destinations where adequate hotel accommodations are not available," the report said. It also focused on the importance of creating Caravan Parks (where basic or advanced amenities and facilities would be provided and where caravans can stay overnight in allotted spaces) along identified circuits. ‘Considering the immense land area and the multitude of landscapes in India, Caravans and Caravan Parks are sure to add an exciting new facet to tourism’, according to the report.
However, the pandemic and fears of being infected by the COVID-19 virus has changed people’s perception of travel in many ways. People now want to travel in a safe bubble, with close family or in small groups of people they know, stay away from crowds or crowded destinations, explore lesser known destinations, travel responsibly and support sustainability. This has made policymakers realise how caravan travel fits this new change in travel perceptions. The best part of caravan tourism is that it is suitable for all kinds of travellers, from millennials to senior citizens as well as families with children.
Madhya Pradesh Tourism, probably one of the first to introduce caravan tourism in India, renewed their focus on caravan tourism in 2020 under a special campaign called ‘intezaar khatam hua’. According to the plan, which was launched during the monsoon, travellers would undertake five to six days of road trips in a caravan to places where they would be able to enjoy the beauty of the rains.
The COVID situation prompted other states to explore caravan tourism as part of safe bubble-travel options.
In 2020, Karnataka Tourism launched a scheme to promote caravan tourism. Travellers desirous of caravan travel may hire a fully-equipped vehicle with amenities such as modern toilet and shower, smart TV, kitchenette, refrigerator, freezer and microwave, etc. The caravan could be parked at select state tourism facilities and a few other places.
Maharashtra Tourism too has come up with caravan tourism with the state government declaring several incentives and exemptions to operators. The caravan has been launched in collaboration with Motohom and are self-contained vehicles with bathrooms. Travellers may park the caravan at MTDC’s lodge premises, surrounding open areas, or eco-parks, according to the tourism website.
Kerala Tourism too has intensified its focus on caravan tourism with the latest policy. “This marks a paradigm shift in almost three decades after the state made it big with houseboat tourism that provided a unique experience to visitors and positioned the state as a major global destination,” said state tourism minister P A Mohamed Riyas. “Like other successful tourism products of Kerala launched since 1990s, caravan tourism is also to be developed on PPP mode with private investors, tour operators and local communities being key stakeholders,” he added. The government will soon announce the details of investment subsidy to be offered to caravan operators.
The release from Kerala Tourism highlighted there will be two types of caravans—one for two guests and the other for a family of four. The tourism caravans will have all the necessary facilities for a comfortable stay such as sofa-cum-bed, kitchenette with fridge and microwave oven, dining table, toilet cubicle, partition behind the driver, air conditioner, internet connectivity, audio-video facilities, charging system and GPS.
Eco-friendliness being a major feature of caravan tourism, preferably Bharat Stage VI-compliant vehicles will be pressed into service, the release said. Assuring complete security of the guests, there will be IT-enabled real-time monitoring of caravans.
To promote caravan tourism, one of the key areas which needs to be looked into is caravan parks, where travellers can safely park their vehicles. According to Kerala Tourism, the caravan parks are to be developed in private sector, public sector or in the joint sector. The configuration of parks will vary from location to location, even though the fundamental attributes remain the same. A caravan park will be a completely safe and secure zone offering hassle-free and stress-free environment to tourists, protected with necessary features like compound walls, adequate security and safety arrangements, patrolling and surveillance cameras. The park authorities will maintain effective coordination with local authorities and medical establishments to attend to medical emergencies. The parks will have Tourist Facilitation Centres to inform the visitors of amenities and services available.
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