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 #10209  by Madurai Gilli
 September 18th, 2013, 9:39 pm
Tour operators take diversion as South turns big draw

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While the depreciating rupee has made outbound travel costlier, recent floods in Uttarakhand and the unrest in Kashmir have affected certain pockets for domestic travel. To offset this, tour operators and travel agents are now focusing on the south.

According to industry estimates, bookings for South Indian destinations have gone up by nearly 40 per cent in the past two months on a year-on-year basis.

RELIGIOUS TOUR

Mohit Gupta, Chief Business Officer, Holidays, MakeMyTrip, said, “South India is becoming an increasingly popular destination among domestic travellers. Our booking numbers are growing at an average of 40-50 per cent y-o-y for various South Indian destinations. Compared to last year, the peak travel season bookings have increased by 120 per cent this year. Apart from holiday packages, we have also seen the South Indian religious tour packages gaining popularity, more so in the light of the recent natural calamity in Uttarakhand.”

Bookings for destinations such as Madurai, Rameshwaram, Kanyakumari, Tirupati and Kanchipuram are picking up, according to tour operators. Online travel portal MakeMyTrip expects 50 per cent growth for pilgrimage tour bookings for its South Indian destinations in the coming months.

Interestingly, the increase in tourist traffic to the south is not restricted to domestic travellers alone. “Even inbound tourists are opting for southern States. We have witnessed a rise of about 30-35 per cent in bookings for south Indian States,” said Vikram Malhi, GM, South and South-east Asia, Expedia.

Thomas Cook India has also seen a strong uptake for destinations such as Coorg, Ooty, Kabini, Chikmagalur, Kodaikanal, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Tirupati and Rameshwaram. “In fact, newer destinations such as Vishakhapatnam, Bekal, Hassan, Hampi and Badami have caught the Indian traveller’s eye in recent times and are fast emerging as popular getaway options,” said Rajeev Kale, COO, MICE, Domestic, Sports and Cruises, Thomas Cook (India).

Keeping in mind the increasing popularity of these destinations, MakeMyTrip has introduced its first fixed departure series for South India covering Ooty, Kodaikanal, Mysore, Coorg and offbeat packages such as the tea-tour of Coonoor, rafting tour of Dandeli and coffee plantation tour of Coorg.

INDULGENCE EXPERIENCES

Thomas Cook India has introduced ‘Indian Indulgence experiences’ for the high net worth individual segment, which include holidays at Nilgiris covering Mysore, Coorg, Kabini and Wayanad and Kerala. The tour operator has also launched ‘Kaapi Trails’ in collaboration with Bangalore International Airport and the Ministry of Karnataka Tourism for experiential travel that offer a flavour of the coffee culture of South India and plantation home-stays, along with cooking programmes, jeep safaris and bike treks and heritage walks.
http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/com ... 061832.ece
 #10217  by Madurai Gilli
 September 18th, 2013, 9:42 pm
Grill shelters to protect devotees - The Times of India
MADURAI: In an effort to ensure a hassle-free 'darshan' for the devotees of Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, the temple authorities have planned to set-up grill shelters throughout the outer 'prakaram'. A shelter preventing devotees on circumambulation through the prakaram from direct sunlight and rain was desperately neededin the temple, as it was not easy for them to walk barefoot on the rock flooring, which was put centuries ago.

Methods like using coir mats around the 'prakaram' and slanting shade from the temple walls were tried earlier, but they turned out to be mere temporary measures. The temple authorities, who wanted to put the devotees in comfort zone by providing a long-term solution, came up with this new plan. The authorities say that they have designed the grill shelters in such a way that the men and women can go in two separate lanes without any congestion. The entire work of the grill shelters has been planned to be completed within six month at an estimated cost of Rs25 lakh. A philanthropist from abroad has come forward to bear the cost of the installation.

Talking about the installation P Jayaraman, joint commissioner, Hindu religious and charitable endowments department, said, "It was inevitable for us to install the shelter facility, as the devotees were finding it difficult to walk barefooted on the rock flooring in the 'prakaram,' especially during sunny days. While we were brainstorming to come up with possible solutions, we also made it a point not to disturb the centuries-old rock flooring, as it wouldn't be an easy task to replace it with a new one."

"Though some temples already have grill shelters, this is a special design because it has wheels fixed underneath. This will enable us to shift the grill in and outside the temple according to the requirement," he added.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city ... 529421.cms
 #10262  by Sundar
 September 27th, 2013, 10:13 am
he Madurai administration is all geared up to celebrate World Tourism Day which falls on Friday. Along with the district authorities, department of tourism has charted out an array of programmes to be carried out on the day.

A grand welcome awaits tourists who arrive in the temple city by air and train. They will be welcomed to the historic city in the traditional way, with offerings of sweets upon their arrival.

Meanwhile, a programme to raise awareness about the historical structures and the tourism potential of the district is also planned. About 200 students from the tourism department of various colleges would be taken on a heritage walk to mark the occasion. They would be taken to 10 historical places across the city. The walk will commence at Meenakshi Amman Temple and conclude at Thirumalai Naicker Mahal. District collector L Subramanian would be inaugurating the walk. The students would also visit Pudumandapam, Rayagopuram, Vittavasal, Nagara Mandapam, Subralu Naidu Printing Press, Vilakkuthoon, Ten Pillar Lane and Registrar Office.

Talking about the events K Dharmaraj, district tourism officer, said, "World Tourism Day would be celebrated in Madurai with fervour. Tourists to the district would be accorded a grand welcome and offered sweets and shawls. The welcome has been planned at various places including airport and railway junction. Tourists would be treated as guests in all the tourism information centres," he said. Every year the day would be celebrated with a theme. 'Tourism and Water- Protecting Our Common Future' has been selected as this year's celebration, added the officer.

Despite several efforts from various NGO and tourism department, the awareness on historical structures continues to be very low among the youth in Madurai. Defacing the structures of historical buildings and littering continue, said the officials from the tourism department.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city ... 118194.cms
 #10792  by Sundar
 December 30th, 2013, 1:22 pm
The Meenakshi Aman temple in the city has been a popular centre for devotees as well as tourists alike for a long while. Of late, the number of visitors has gone up significantly. Temple authorities say an unprecedented number of devotees - about 50,000 - is reaching the temple daily with tourists from north India and Sabarimala pilgrims forming a substantial part of it.

Usually, about 20,000 worshippers pay obeisance at the historic temple. The number of worshippers arriving at the temple has been rising gradually, with the count touching 30,000 from mid-November to mid-December. About, half a million devotees worshipped in the temple in the last 10 days alone. "In the last 10 days, 50,000 devotees arrived daily at the temple. This is expected to continue for another 10 days," said P Jayaraman, joint commissioner of Meenakshi temple.

As the numbers rise, devotees in free 'darshan' queue have to wait for two-and-a-half hours to see the two major deities, Meenakshi and Sundareswarar. Likewise, those opting for paid 'darshan' take more than 90 minutes to worship the deities.

A devotee, irrespective of the queue, can see the deities for only 3 seconds. Accordingly, only 20 devotees finish 'darshan' every minute. Temple management said about 2,400 devotees finish 'darshan' in an hour, which includes1,200 devotees from free 'darshan' queue and 1,200 from paid queues.

On Sunday, long queues were witnessed at police check centres, ticketed 'darshan' counters and footwear kiosks. Darshan queue could be seen snaking out for about one-and-a-half km. However, the temple management had taken steps for crowd management successfully after studying ground realities. Commenting on this, Jayaram said there is perceptible rise in the number of devotees in the last two years. On normal days, about 5,000 people buy darshan tickets of Rs 100 and 10,000 buy Rs 20 tickets. Now, the figures are 7,000 and 12,000 devotees respectively.

"The crowd strength has touched 50,000, which we never expected. Hence, 350 personnel including 300 police men, 25 security personnel and 15 temple staff have been put in service for crowd management and the same service will continue ahead," said Jayaraman.

Meanwhile, the sales of 'prasadam' too are rising. Normally, 'prasadam' sales fetch Rs.60,000 during the first four days of the week and Rs 1 lakh from Friday to Sunday. Now, 'prasadams' for Rs 2 lakh are sold daily.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city ... 115582.cms
 #10902  by Sankar
 January 16th, 2014, 11:18 am
Chennai: Tamil Nadu abounds in fa­scinating hill stations, pi­lgrim spots, revitalising ru­ral spots besides forts and palaces. But it is Chennai th­at seems to have attracted more visitors, including fo­reign na­tionals, than all ot­her tourist spots in the st­a­te in 2013.

Though pilgrim destinations, like Rameswa­ram and Madurai, were among the spots preferred by Indians, it is Chennai that ranked first among the top spots last year. As on October end 2013, Chennai received 1,58,43,181 domestic touri­sts and 5,88,138 foreigners, thus totaling to 1,64,31,319 visitors.

Over­all, Tamil Nadu received over 17.56 crore footfalls, including 30.81 lakh foreigners.
Chennai’s sprawling bea­ches, airport, seaport, good air connectivity, he­ri­tage and ancient temples are am­ong the nu­merous att­r­a­ctions that are inviting to tourists.

Madurai received 1,27,95,639 footfalls, inclu­d­ing 1,94,288 foreigners, followed by Rameswaram wi­th 1,13,82,432, including 82,635 foreigners. Thiruv­an­namalai recei­ved 1,01,84,747, including 1,09,015 foreign nationals.

Interestingly, the popular haunts, like Ooty, recei­ved 83,11,263 domestic vi­sitors in addition to 2,51,803 foreigners, Kodai­kanal, 82,58,807 and 1,97,318 foreigners and the popular Mamallapu­ram got 40,77,481 domestic tourists and 3,90,642 foreigners.

Temple towns like Tiru­chendur (totally 96,75,703), Kanyakumari (83,92,423), Palani (69,46,141) and Kum­bako­nam (63,27,260), as on October end 2013, have been attracting crowds steadily. Though the final tally is yet to come, as per the estimates of the To­urism Dep­artment, Tamil Nadu will surpass 18,76,98,580 visitors, in­cl­u­ding 35,61,740 foreigners, received in 2012.

“There is an increase in arrivals on a year-on-year basis and this is a healthy trend. In tune with the policies of the State government and also taking into account the needs of the increasing volume of tourists, we are aiming to develop several new locations that so far have not been exploited,” says Hemant Kumar Sinha, commissioner of tourism.

This apart, talks are on with the forest department to promote nature trails, treks and eco-tourism circuits, keeping in mind the areas notified by the Supreme Court.

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140105/n ... estination
 #10903  by Jayvjay
 January 16th, 2014, 1:43 pm
Foreigners get a taste of Pongal in a rural setting

Tourism Department organises harvest festival at Pudupatti -a tobacco-free village

Foreign tourists preparing the delicacy during the Pongal celebrations, organised by the Department of Tourism, at A.Pudupatti near Alanganallur on Wednesday.

Foreign tourists danced their way to Pudupatti near Alanganallur here on the occasion of Mattu Pongal on Wednesday.

Around 250 international tourists availed the opportunity to celebrate the harvest festival with the villagers, as a part of the programme organised by Tamil Nadu Tourism Department.

The visitors were accorded a traditional reception of ‘melams, chrysanthemum garlands and aarthi.’

Walking through the narrow streets of the village, the foreign tourists took photographs of the houses, women tending to the cattle which were festooned for ‘Maattu Pongal.’

Women and children sporting newly bought dresses assembled in front of their houses to greet the Sari and dhoti-clad foreigners.

They shook hands with the visitors and wished them happy pongal.

Guided by the villagers, the tourists also prepared sweet pongal in brightly-painted earthen pots.

Later, they gathered at the centre of the village, where they were treated to some enchanting display of rural folk arts and martial arts such as Thappatam, Karagattam Kavadiattam, Poi kal kuthirai’ and ‘silambam.’

Other performances using knives and ropes of fire took the audience’s breath away.

Terming the performance as “very good,” Paul (47) of France said that this festival provided an insight into the rural India and its culture.

The foreigners danced to the drum beat amid loud applause from the villagers. Some of them also tried their hand at playing the parai (drum).

The precision of their movements which synchronised with the background beats was really amazing, said Hidenori, a student from Kamakura, Japan.

The visitors posed for photographs with the locals, particularly with the children who bonded very well with them.

Traditional goat fight was also organised for the foreigners.

Interesting culture

“It is an interesting culture. I never get to see things like these back in the U.S.,” said Olen, a student from the United States of America.

T. Gunasekaran, Tourist Officer (In-Charge), Madurai said that a lot of care was taken in organising the arrangements to ensure the foreigners had a memorable experience.

A Pudupatti, a nondescript village abutting Alanganallur, is known in the region for its self-imposed ban on tobacco items and liquor. The ban is in force for decades together. The sale of alcohol, pan, bidi, cheroot, cigarette and other tobacco products are banned.

The village has around 2,000 houses and a population of 5,000. If any shop is found selling the banned items villagers would not hesitate to ransack the shop and dump the products in fire, the villagers said.

Thanks to TTD on choosing Pudupatti village !!!
Very happy to hear on theirs effort against tobacco & liquor ... :clap: :thumbup:
 #11066  by Sundar
 February 15th, 2014, 12:38 pm
Breaking the shackles of custom by visiting a couple of temples in Madurai and taking a rickshaw ride around the city to visit the Thirumalai Naicker Mahal and Gandhi Memorial Museum, a group of 34 tourists from Israel went further to explore the tradition and culture of the historic city. Most of the tourists who are visiting India for the first time were awestruck on witnessing the rich culture, heritage and hospitality of the rural people. Travelling by a bullock cart, watching karagattam, thappattam and devaraattam amidst villagers in Madurai during the village cultural immersion programme were some of the moments they would cherish throughout their lifetime.

They reached Madurai through Bangalore by road. What was special during their trip was going beyond visiting the usual places to explore the village and to witness extraordinary hospitality. Clad in colourful dresses, the 34 tourists reached Velliankundram village near Appan Thirupathi, on bullock carts taking note of the life the villagers led. Traditional food made up of millets was an unexpected surprise for them, who quickly adjusted with the food and even loved it.

They were astonished by the bit of history attached to the village. Velliankundam was one of the 72 zamins during King Thirumalai Naicker during 17th century. The information on E K Pulikesi the descendant of the zamin, who is still respected by the people and offered first preference during the famous Chithirai festival, fondly made as the village president, fascinated them. They curiously interacted with Pulikesi, who had visited Israel once to study the agriculture method there. Tamil or Hebrew, for them language was not a barrier to communicate.

Elisheva, one of the tourists from South Israel said, "The temples here are very beautiful and colourful. I was overwhelmed by the people, their hospitality, food and the culture. India is such a vast country with huge population. It is fascinating to visit the country."

For Moran Kushnir, who is leading the group, India is a home away from home. "I have been travelling in India for 15 years and I feel like home here. This part of the country is very rich in culture and tradition," she said. K P Bharathi, programme leader of tourism development, Dhan Foundation, a Madurai-based NGO, which organised the visit said that these rural visits not only help to spread our culture and tradition but also develop the lifestyle of villages by augmenting their income.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city ... 424619.cms
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