Tapping into the huge potential of Malabar as a major tourist destination, the Kerala Tourism Department has brought out a high-tech digital facility that provides visitors with all details about experiential and service packages offered in the region in north Kerala. A 'SMiLE Virtual Tour Guide' links tourists with their places of attraction and providers of experiential services.
The package has got its acronym SMiLE from Small and Medium Industries Leveraging Experiential Tourism. Conceived and executed by Bekal Resorts Development Corporation (BRDC) that focuses on eco-friendly and experiential tourism, the SMiLE guide renders information on 40 Malabar attractions, ways to reach them, plan tours and fix reminder alarm notification, besides means to share portal material, find accommodation and book rooms. The site has also helpline numbers for women and ambulance service, according to the BRDC. BRDC is primarily into developing North Malabar and focusing on developing a beach tourist destination around northern-most Kasargod district's seaside Bekal, known for its 1650AD-built fort spread over 40 acres that makes it the biggest in the state.
Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran described the SMiLE VTG as Malabar's pioneering comprehensive package for travellers. "It comes at a time when the state government is envisaging projects that give northern Kerala its deserving attention on the tourism map," he added. The minister said Malabar was largely unaffected by the recent floods and landslides. "It now becomes imperative to implement ways to boost tourism in northern Kerala," he said. Kerala Tourism Secretary Rani George said, "The SMiLE VTG seeks to increase tourist arrivals and generate jobs in the sector. The government provided Rs 50 lakhs to the 1995-established BRDC to come up with such a tour guide under its new-age means of tourism promotion." The SMiLE VTG, endowed with latest IT-enabled services, has a mobile app that offers location-based information alongside a three-minute video that plays on visiting any attraction in Malabar.
The audio-videos go by the latest trend of storytelling when it comes to providing information on the history, culture and specialties of every tourist location. Textual material co-exists along with details of accommodation and related facilities rendered by SMiLE entrepreneurs. The VTG provides not just the distance and routes to the spots, but also tour plans that are supported by GPS trackers which ensures travel along easiest roads. Among the 40 Malabar destinations the VTG covers are Arakkal Palace (near Kannur city), Bekal Fort, the 1862 AD-founded Brennen College (Thalassery), Neeleswaram Palace, the Madayipara flat-topped hillock (Kannur district), the 1505-built Kannur fort and Dharmadom Island (Thalassery).
(With inputs from agencies.)