Technopark Kollam
Technopark Kollam, with Asthamudi lake in the backdrop. Image Credit: Supplied

Thiruvananthapuram: The last of Kerala’s Nipah patients were discharged from hospital on Friday, removing a major scare hanging over the state’s tourism prospects just when it is entering peak tourism season.

The medical fraternity in Kozhikode district where Nipah struck this year heaved a sigh of relief on Friday – a sentiment shared by tourism sector operators – as all the patients left for homes on Friday. Four of the last Nipah patients on ventilator support, including a child, were all declared fit to leave hospital, and their observation period will end on October 5.

‘Workation’ roll out

To capitalise on the bounce back in tourism that had taken a major hit during the COVID-19 years and a temporary setback owing to the Nipah scare, the state is launching a new concept, ‘Workation’, aimed at tapping the emerging opportunities in remote work worldwide. The concept aims to attract people to remote-work from some of Kerala’s idyllic tourism locations, combining weekday work and weekend leisure at the destination.

PB Nooh, Kerala tourism director

“There is no doubt that remote work is going to stay. There are already people who are moving around, staying one month at a destination doing remote work and then moving on to another destination for another month to explore that place. Kerala is best-suited to tap this emerging space in tourism,” Kerala tourism director PB Nooh told Gulf News.

Accordingly, some of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) properties will be expanded or spruced up to appeal to those who are on remote work.

The first off the mark will be the KTDC property near the Neyyar dam in the south of the state, abutting a scenic lake. The KTDC property will add more rooms and the property spruced up to welcome ‘workation’ clientele.

The state government has already provisioned Rs 100 million for the workation scheme in the 2023-24 budget.

IT-tourism duet

The workation concept is practically an IT-tourism duet as the state government is keen to blend its two star-performing sectors. Remote work is essentially an option available to tech-sector jobs, and therefore it makes sense for the state to have a fusion of its tech parks and tourism strengths for extra leverage for both sectors.

Sanjeev Nair, Technopark CEO

“Workation epitomises the perfect blend of work and leisure, for which Kerala has tremendous potential. Kerala IT and Kerala Tourism are collaborating for this workation concept for IT professionals seeking productive workation destinations at select tourist destinations of KTDC”, Technopark CEO Sanjeev Nair told Gulf News.

An MoU for this has been endorsed between Technopark and KTDC. Nair says the new initiative redefines the work environment, enhances efficiency and work-life balance, and can lead to a reverse brain drain as well as attract talent from elsewhere.

Some of Kerala’s tech parks are already based near tourist attractions in tier-two and tier-three towns, like the technopark at Kollam, close to the scenic Ashtamudi lake.

Bouncing back

Kerala tourism had taken a major hit during the pandemic years, and is now bouncing back. The state was getting over a million foreign tourists a year just before COVID-19 struck. In 2019, there were 1.19 million international tourists to Kerala. When the pandemic struck the next year, the number dropped by a massive 71 per cent to 340,755 in 2020.

The rebound in the sector is evident in the growing numbers of international tourists. The number of foreign tourists in the first half of 2023 was pegged at 287,730, compared to 105,960 during the corresponding period last year, a healthy 172 per cent growth.

Tourism revenues are also showing an uptick. The tourism sector had a net revenue of Rs 352 billion in 2022 compared to Rs 123 billion in 2021.