‘God’s own secret in God’s own country’ is how Vivanta by Taj – Bekal describes the majesty of Bekal. Despite everything going its way, Bekal story has not yet happened. One of the major impediment to its road ahead for success was inadequate air connectivity from the capital. With Jet Airways announcing a daily non-stop from Delhi to Mangalore starting mid-January, the glaring drawback has finally been addressed, raising hopes that Bekal will find more prominence in Kerala’s tourism offerings.
Tucked in the western coast of India, Bekal is a small town in Kasaragod district of Kerala. Crammed between Western Ghats to its east and Laccadive Sea to its west, it is often termed as the land of one of the most well-preserved forts – Bekal Fort. Shaped like a giant keyhole, the ramparts of the fort provide a breath-taking view of the Arabian Sea. Given Bekal’s languid and pristine surroundings, it ought to have gained serious prominence in the tourism landscape of the region.
With hotels like The Lalit and Vivanta by Taj already in operation, and the likes of Marriott in the offing in the coming year, there is no dearth of quality accommodation either. Bekal’s Achilles heel has been restricted air connectivity with no direct flights from Delhi to Mangalore (the closest airport located at a distance of 70 kms.).
However, this evident shortfall, too, has been finally corrected. Jet Airways has recently announced a daily non-stop connection between Delhi and Mangalore, and will press into service a 160-seater Boeing-737. It is important to note that Air India had started a flight service some six years ago, which was discontinued owing to inadequate traffic.
Commenting on the recent development and the future of Bekal as a tourist destination, Dinesh Khanna, Chairman – Vivanta by Taj – Bekal, Kerala asserted that the government was actively engaged in promoting the entire region and a number of initiatives had been set in motion for the same. “A light and sound show should start at the Bekal Fort some time soon. A crafts village is expected to open in another couple of months,” he said.
Taking stock of road connectivity to Bekal from the Mangalore Airport, he said that road connectivity to Mangalore airport had improved by leaps and bounds, and the hotel was hardly an hour and a half drive from the airport. “The four-lane highway on the Karnataka side has already been done, and the stretch on the Kerala side should be completed in some time, linking it to south Kerala,” shared the Chairman. Lauding the infrastructure of Mangalore airport, he also informed that the “entire Karnataka coast is being developed on a large scale to leverage its ports for enhanced connectivity.”
Adding that to give a fillip to road connectivity within the region, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari had promised a sum of 5000 crores for strengthening the road network, he said “regional connectivity scheme will help movement from Karnataka to Kerala and vice-versa.”
Beside the direct connect to Mangalore, and several flights to Bengaluru, the presence of several top hotels in Coorg area, too, were adding to footfalls in Bekal, he said. “Sea planes are expected to be unveiled in Kerala in a couple of months, which will certainly add more teeth to the state’s tourism profile,” Dinesh Khanna said.
Sharing some details about Vivanta by Taj-Bekal, Dinesh Khanna detailed that the hotel had been consistently clocking an occupancy rate of over 70%, round the year. The hotel is also known for its spectacular spa – Jiva Grande Spa, and health and wellness segments have a considerable weightage in augmenting overall footfalls. “The idea is to tap the health and fitness segment, and have tourists come in for Ayurvedic messages and extensive therapies for seven to ten days, or more,” he detailed.
The hotel attracted a fair number of foreigners, who roughly accounted for almost 30% of its total footfalls, beside expats living in India.
“There is a lot of MICE movement happening as well. We have been hosting a number of conferences and events that take up as much as 20 to 40 hotel rooms. We have also successfully hosted a few weddings,”
explained Dinesh Khanna. “Celebrations and group stays have been received at the hotel too. We have 70 rooms on offer,” added the Chairman.
Informing that the hotel was gearing up to host a large conference of doctors, where the whole hotel had been booked for two and half days, he also asserted that while Bekal was indeed a small town, there were plenty of shopping options at hand. “Fair number of smaller shops selling jewellery and ethnic shops dealing in silk sarees make it an attractive prospect for travellers from various hues of life,” he said.