The project was for Kumarakom, one of the 17 sites identified by Ministry of Tourism, GoI, to be developed as Iconic Tourist Site. The development plan was generated based on exhaustive literature research, physical site assessment, market assessment, contextual benchmarking, stakeholder’s consultation, community engagement and surveys. A comprehensive master plan was prepared for the Kumarakom Village panchayat area spanning across 28.45 Sq. Km. The master plan was driven by a focused approach towards safeguarding the natural environment, facilitating responsible tourism and devising strategies for restoring the ecology of the area. The specific goals include:
Size : 6828 Acres + Surrounding Region
Services : Master Planning, Viability Assessment, Feasibility & Impact Analysis, Infrastructure Gap Assessment, Stakeholder Consultations, Preparation of Development Plan (DP) and Identification of Project Shelf
Collaboration : Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL)
Kumarakom, a naturally endowed region of Kottayam district in the beautiful southern Indian state of Kerala, was seen to be losing out on attracting tourists to its splendorous natural and cultural heritage when compared to better known destinations in the state despite having a competitive wealth of tourist attractions. This was sought to be corrected by the Tourism Departments of the State and the Union Governments by including it in the list of selected iconic destinations around India to be addressed for sustainable tourism development. The INI team designed the proposal to develop Kumarakom into the iconic tourism destination that it deserves to be through the curating and integrating various elements of natural, cultural and architectural heritage which it is uniquely endowed with into a well-planned cohesive circuit supported by adequate sustainable infrastructure.
This master plan area measuring around 51.76 sq km lies on the eastern side of the Vembanadu Lake, along with which it has been notified as a Special Tourism Zone (STZ). This parcel of reclaimed land located at 1500 m AMSL is criss-crossed by an intense network of canals. This master plan respects and carefully integrates the wetland ecosystem, an estuarine environment full of varied flora and fauna as well as the longest line of mangroves in Kerala. Paddy cultivation, shell mining and toddy tapping inform some unique economic activities and the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary & Pathiramanal Island in the Vembanadu lake are bird watchers’ paradise in attracting many migratory and native avian species are some highlights of the master plan vision. Other attractions are the local cuisine, coir weaving, house-boating, and the famous snake boat races popular with locals and tourists alike.
The project began with studying, consulting stakeholders and appraising the opportunities and problem areas before charting out the plan for a rejuvenated tourist district. The major aspects listed out to be addressed were the lack of amenities and infrastructure to support a tourism industry, the lack of effective connectivity between different attraction points preventing them from performing in unison as a tourism district, poor rail connections and public transport availability to the nearest urban centers as well as rail and air heads, poor maintenance of heritage and infrastructure, absence of a sense of place and arrival. A 13 point program was charted to address each of the listed elements of proposed tourism development pan individually in meticulous detail.
An Area Based Development (ABD) master plan approach was adopted to organise the development of the Kumarakom tourism district. Beginning with the upgrade of the Cheepunkal Kayal View Park, which is a green open space on the Vembanadu Lake’s banks offering panoramic views of the lake, each identified area like the Pathiramanal Island development as an ecotourism hot-spot, nature conservation and farm based tourism at Puthankayal area, and promoting Kumarakom Birds Sanctuary as a pristine eco-tourism destination were taken up. While boating jetties, viewing galleries, board-walks and trails were developed for on-site up gradation, regularization of tourist bus services and introduction of intermediate means of green transport like E-autos, and other feasible transportation means like sea-planes and cruise services informed a major part of the plan.
Though focus of the master plan was on developing Kumarakom as an attractive destination for tourism comparable to others in Kerala, equally close attention was paid to qualifying it as a responsible tourism ecosystem which balanced the economic gains with the ecological, cultural and developmental well-being of the region. For this a sustainable framework of development guidelines was drawn up and the plan is sought to be implemented in carefully calibrated phases. Accurately branding the tourism package on offer and marketing it effectively to target group of domestic and international consumers also played a crucial role in the plan’s potential success.