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Kerala imposes strict norms for tourist spas

With medical tourism thriving in the state, the Kerala government is planning to make licensing and classification regime strict for house boatspas, homestays and ayurvedic resorts to ensure "quality" of services rendered to visitors.

Though some of the guidelines are already in existence for the licensing and classification of houseboats and homestays, tourism authorities are aware that there are loose ends in their implementation. A few houseboats and home stays, especially in Keralas aqua tourism hub Alappuzha, are found to be wanting in the prescribed amenities, Tourism department sources said. The industry is also keen on putting in place clear-cut regulations to ensure quality of service delivered which is vital to the growth of medical tourism.

"Kerala has great potential for medical tourism as it combines both the centuries old tradition of ayurveda and natural setting for world class spas. However, illegal and unregulated mushrooming of spas and resorts have been causing concern not only to the authorities, but also to genuine and serious entrepreneurs," a leading house boat operator in Alappuzha said. The pressure from the industry and the need to keep the high standard of Keralas brand image of Gods Own Country are the prime compulsions for tightening the regulations, Tourism Director Rani George said.

The motto of Kerala tourism is "quality visit experience." Strict guidelines for classification and grading are essential to maintain high standards, George said. "During a recent monthly meeting, hoteliers and tour operators also made a strong demand for making classification norms mandatory," she said. She also said it was important that tourism and health departments make some joint moves in that direction since ayurveda comes under the Health Department. P

lacid lakes with palm-fringed villages on banks, sunny and sandy beaches and green-rich uplands provide the congenial ambiance for medical tourism in Kerala. Houseboats have now become one of the biggest money spinners in the domestic tourism sector. As per the industry figures, a total of 580 houseboats and 100 registered homestays operate in Vembanadu Lake along the Kochi-Alappuzha-Kumarakom stretch alone.

But there are more such small and medium facilities which are functioning without proper licences, sources said. "A large number of Ayurveda spa centres are operating in the state. Though such centres woo many tourists, Ayurveda is not part of the tourism sector. So we are mulling ways to bring such spa centres also under our norms to upkeep the quality of the industry," George said. She, however, said only preliminary discussions were held and a detailed debate involving the stakeholders would be initiated before firming up the regulations.
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