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‘Wellness will see rapid growth’

Sarat Valsraj, general manager of The Zuri Kumarakom, Kerala Resort & Spa talks about the USP of his property, impact of the liquor ban on business, responsible tourism initiatives and more By Rituparna Chatterjee

How are you positioning the property in the Kerala market?

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Sarat Valsraj

The Zuri Kumarakom is a premium luxury product in destination Kumarakom for a discerning traveller who is looking to spend time and rejuvenate in this beautiful backwater destination. Maya Spa with 14 treatment rooms specialising in both Ayurveda and western treatments with trained therapist and consulting doctor is the USP of the property. The high spending corporate traveller who wants to spend quality time with family will be the new target segment for us. Presently we have a mix of international inbound series business with domestic travellers. Destination weddings are a big draw and The Zuri Kumarakom is popular for the same.

What about expansion plans?

There is no additional inventory being added to the current supply. A complete soft refurbishment of different categories of rooms is ongoing without effecting guest services.

How has the recent liquor ban impacted the sector in Kerala?

As The Zuri Kumarakom is a five-star deluxe property, liquor license is issued and the unit has not been impacted with the policy decision for this financial year. But with Sunday being declared as a dry day there is bound to be an impact on the weekend business in MICE (corporate and wedding segment). Most corporates who plan their off-sites have to rethink because of this policy decision of the government. The big picture will come in when the official numbers will be made available by the tourism department on the number of tourist arrivals for this financial year. This policy decision will not impact the market segment if all stakeholders promote the destination for the beauty and splendour which it has to offer. Also various roadshows, both domestic and international, are good platforms to allay any fears and clear all doubts of our travel partners who book different destinations.

Kumarakom is known for its responsible tourism (RT) initiative, how is the group implementing this?

Our RT Cell has helped in the involvement of the local community in meeting the requirements of the industry. The RT Cell was instrumental in establishing units for vegetable cultivation, fish processing, chapatti making, chicken processing, supply of tender coconuts, gift making, pappad making, handicraft and painting, souvenir, and performing groups like Shinkarimelam and other cultural groups. All these units are operated by different micro enterprises and individuals. Coconuts, tender coconuts, coconut oil, pappad and eggs are the main items the units are sourcing from the local community. Besides we have opened employment opportunities for the local community with close to 45 employees working in different departments of the resort.

You views on growth of the hospitality and wellness industry in Kerala?

Presently we have seen a growth of 22 per cent against last year. Wellness will see rapid growth in the coming years with Ayurveda being positioned as holistic wellness in upscale properties. Another very important contribution by Kerala physicians is the continued practice and enrichment of the panchakarma therapy. Even when they became defunct in the rest of the country due to socio-political reasons, Kerala retained this therapeutic wealth in all its pristine essence. Medical tourism is an area which will be explored as a potential first mover in the tourism sphere. Destination properties are tying up with top notch medi-city hospitals to collaborate in post treatment and recuperation in leisure for families of patients.

Any other significant factor?

More marketing spend by the state government should help in maintaining the numero uno position of Kerala – God’s Own Country. The Government of Kerala should take steps to focus on infrastructure development. An effective integration of road, rail and water transport along with smaller airports in different districts will ease travel time.

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