After Bangalore being named the top third international tourist destination by BBC’s travel guide publisher Lonely Planet recently, the state tourism department is now taking steps to establish Bangalore as the gateway to South India.
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Tourism department in association with Bangalore International Airport (BIAL) is holding a 10-day coffee festival at BIAL for passengers from December 6-15. Passengers will be treated to different coffee breeds from nine coffee growing areas in South India. Of these, five points – Coorg, Mysore, BR Hills and Baba Budan Hills – are in Karnataka. BIAL plans to engage over two lakh passengers in the festival. Passengers can interact with coffee experts and watch coffee-making demonstrations.
This event is a precursor to the Kaapi Trail that tourism department, BIAL and Coffee Board of India is planning to launch in December 2012. Kaapi Trail is a tourism package that will start from Bangalore and cover the nine coffee-growing regions.
Tourism Department Director Viswanatha Reddy says that this is the first in a line of programmes to establish Bangalore as the gateway to South India. "Because of Bangalore’s location, all points in the Kaapi Trail will be easily accessible from here. After this, we will start similar packages with themes like silk and floriculture, as the state is doing well in these fields," he says.
In coffee, Karnataka is the leading producer in the country, accounting for 70% of production. Sunalini Menon, CEO of the private enterprise Coffee Labs, who helped put together the project, says that two aspects have been focused on. "One is eco-tourism and the other is sustainable development. Tourists will be taken to natural coffee farms that use sustainable methods, and given tours of how the farms function," she says.
The department has been planning for the coffee trail programme for the last two years, says Reddy. As part of the Kaapi Trail, package tours along with home stays will be organised with separate fares for domestic and international tourists. Tourism department and BIAL will co-ordinate with travel agencies, who will conduct the tours. Different modes of transport like bus and taxi will be used. Tourists will be able to purchase Kaapi Trail trip online at the BIAL and Tourism department websites.
Reddy says that tourism has been growing in the state. Till end of October 2011, about 69 million domestic and international tourists have visited the state, their entry point mostly Bangalore. "This is almost double as last year’s figure of 38 million. This is because of better campaigning this year. Also, we have streamlined the data collection system – earlier we could not trace many tourists due to gaps in the system," says Reddy.
BIAL, on its part, hopes that the initiative will attract more tourists to the airport. Currently about 12 million passengers use the airport everyday. "Tourism packages highlighting cultural aspects are common in many airports abroad, but are only catching up in India," says Hari Marar, BIAL CEO.⊕