in getting groceries for their guests. The floating malls have thus also become a tourist attraction in the backwaters that once reportedly beat the Taj Mahal as India’s most preferred destination in an online poll.
Even the big oil companies have realised how easy it is to move their products by the waterways within the state instead of using the clogged highways. All the major oil companies, like the Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Indo-Burma Petroleum Corporation, have bought land near the national waterway from Kochi to Kollam. Also, for the first time, the Kerala tourism department, a few months ago, sent helicopter-mounted cameras into the sky to film the backwaters spread across 10 of the state’s 14 districts to help a campaign to present the natural entity as a “single destination like the Great Wall of China”. “Income generation through employment opportunities from the tourism sector helps in the economy of the backwaters region,” says VC Asokan, associate professor in the economics department of the 109-year-old Sanatana Dharma College in Alappuzha.
The strides of the backwaters region in tourism and other industries are expected to help in the economic development of the region. Already a big-league foreign remittance destination because of the lakhs of Malayali immigrants in the Gulf countries (non-resident Indians sent home $71 billion in 2013, making India the largest recipient of foreign remittances, says a World Bank report last October), Kerala is also drawing young hospitality talent from other states to its new luxury resorts like those coming up every month in the backwaters. As per a recent survey by ratings company Crisil, tourism has contributed to an inclusive growth in Kerala that ranks on the top in social equity. It is a kind of development that would make several young people step out of their homes in the backwaters region for a first-time shopping experience on the floating malls.
Faizal Khan is a freelancer