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The Lakshadweep group of islands constitutes 10 inhabited and 26 uninhabited islands located far off from each other. The land area of each of these islands is extremely small and consequently bringing the density of population at a higher level. All land-based activities in the islands are restricted for want of adequate vacant land. Moreover, the real estate transactions are allowed only among the islanders and hence outsiders cannot own assets in the island. All developmental processes can take place only through contractual agreements of leasing for a period of years.
The economic activities of the islands are mainly restricted to primary sector, fisheries and coconut cultivation being the mainstay. Value added activities based on these two resources are also not very popular in the islands. The coconut growers are not able to get appropriate value for their produces and hence many a times the Government has to intervene in providing support prices. Tuna fish constitutes the main catch by the fishermen and fish landings also had shown erratic trend over the years.
In this context of uncertain scenario of economic activities by the islanders and the consequent heavy dependence on the Government support it is felt that the islands with their spectacular beauty of beaches, corals and lagoons, can be used for further promotion of tourism. Tourism has of late, evolved into a major revenue earner in the world over. While doing so, the natural assets of the islands (sea and its environs) are to be preserved and protected in such a manner that would bring about continuous economic advantages to the islands.
The most outstanding strength of the islands is their immensely attractive seascape and the marine wealth. (The blue water lagoon, corals, coral reefs). The unspoilt virgin beaches are a piece of attraction to all connoisseurs, especially international tourists.
These attractions and the possibilities of sea based aqua sports are not adequately publicized in the international markets. This limitation can be converted into an advantage to promote the unknown among those who seek new experiences at new destinations.
The local residents are extremely helpful and friendly in their warm interactions, which is of extreme importance in tourism promotion and tourist arrivals. The crime record is absent in the islands, which is ample testimony to the peace loving nature of the people and guarantee to the security of the tourists.
PRESENT TOURISM SCENARIO
Tourism activities in the islands are currently conducted in a controlled manner through a few specific tour packages sponsored by SPORTS (Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports). SPORTS was set up as a registered society under the Societies Act. Being controlled, the travel, stay and food are taken care of by the sponsor. These packages depend on the travel schedule of a few ships now plying between Kochi and the island. The tour packages include coverage of a few islands like Minicoy, Kalpeni, Kadmat, and Kavaratti where resort facilities are available.
One of the uninhabited islands, Bangaram is leased out to a private party to manage tourist arrivals. The island resort facilities partly available earlier were refurbished by the company. In another inhabited island Agatti, although SPORTS had established the resort facilities, these are managed by private parties.
DEVELOPMENTAL PLANS BY DEPARTMENT OF PORTS & SHIPPING
Sea transport being the critical factor for improving the efficiency of promotional activities, the Department of Ports and Shipping has proposed a few schemes during the 10th Plan period taking into consideration the projected passenger and cargo traffic. The passenger traffic between the mainland and the island has been increasing at a level of 8 to 9 percent over the years and it is likely to increase at a faster pace in future years due to increase in population as well as higher standard of living and per capita income. Hence the proposed acquisition of the new ships alongwith the existing ones will considerably ease the present traffic problems. Moreover the tourists traffic will be taken away from the existing mainland traffic on the arrival of a dedicated ship. Even considering all these developments in the transport sector, acquisition of one 800 capacity passenger vessel or two more 500 capacity vessels may be required beyond 2020.