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Case for ‘Sea Plane Tourism’

Establishing water aerodromes and enabling amphibian planes would ease travel from major hubs like Chennai.

Recently, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued licensing norms for setting up water aerodromes. A ‘water aerodrome’ is a defined area on water intended to be used for the arrival, departure and movement of aircraft. This move is to promote and regulate the operation of seaplanes over lakes, rivers and other water bodies.

This is a welcome move to boost tourism. Today, the money spent by domestic and foreign visitors goes to a range of goods and service providers. The travel and tourism sector in India generated Rs 14.1 trillion in 2016, the world’s 7th largest by size. The sum is equivalent to 9.6 per cent of India’s GDP. This sector has created 40.3 million jobs in 2016 and accounts for 9.3 per cent of the country’s total jobs.

Expand Tourism…

Tamil Nadu accounts for a fifth of foreign tourists who visit India. The Union Ministry of Tourism has listed Tamil Nadu as the most popular destination.
The state is naturally blessed with a lot of water bodies like waterfalls, backwaters, lakes and river estuaries which have been ‘places to visit’ by both Indian and international tourists. Rameswaram and Kanyakumari are very sought after; but travel to these places proves difficult. Establishing water aerodromes and enabling amphibian planes would ease travel to these places from essential hubs like Chennai or Tiruchi.

Tamil Nadu could exploit the opportunity to expand tourism by establishing water aerodromes. These aerodromes will enable tourists to visit and enjoy places, which do not have airports. Such an initiative has already been initiated by the Odisha government over the Chilika Lake. Neighbouring states like Kerala, Karnataka and Andaman and Nicobar islands have formulated policies to use water bodies to boost tourism.

Recently Uttrakhand announced that the tourism sector will soon get an industry status and extend the benefits given to the MSMEs. Water aerodromes can enhance the MSME sector as they can contribute equipment, services, e-commerce platforms, budget hotels and other customer services. Time for Tamil Nadu to join the party.

Assist Navy, coast guard

Tamil Nadu boasts of the second largest coastline. Water aerodromes can also be used by the navy and the coast guard for defence purposes and logistics sector for high-value, perishable consignments and organ transportation. Recently, the government announced setting the country’s first defence corridor in Tamil Nadu. The state can use this opportunity to manufacture multipurpose, entry-level seaplanes and establish a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility. Water aerodromes can be used to connect multiple points along the coast thereby increasing the access to and value of various coastal towns like Chennai, Nagapattinam, Rameswaram and Kanyakumari.

Establishment of water aerodromes along the coastline will effectively assist fishermen and increase the surveillance along the coast and drug trafficking. The policing of waters by Tamil Nadu police and the coast guard will become easier through better coordination with aerodromes built at different strategic points along the coast.

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