Spotlight on Kerala as an incentive travel destination
Craig Thomas

Spotlight on Kerala as an incentive travel destination

28th November 2016

When you think of running an incentive trip to India there are probably a few obvious areas that instantly spring to mind; the Golden Triangle - taking in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, the laid-back shores of Goa, or the beaches and backwaters of Kerala. In reality all offer a unique view of this beautiful, vast and colourful country.


Having recently returned from a research trip to Kerala, let me share with you some of the things that captured my imagination and give you a little insight into what this extraordinary destination has to offer for incentive travel

Incentive travel - Kerala, India


Incentive travel - Kerala, India


Incentive travel - Kerala, India



The Kerala Experience

With Kerala offering such a diverse range of experiences - from bustling cities to beach resorts and forest retreats - it can be difficult to know where to start when planning a trip. In reality though the Kerala experience is really all about the journey through this fascinating landscape, discovering new sights and sounds around each river bend. There are four main areas of Kerala to explore:


  • The stunning city of Kochi - giving a hint of the vibrancy of bigger cities in India; the hustle and bustle of the markets, roadside stalls and continuous procession of tuk-tuks, beautifully-decorated buses, bikes and cars against a backdrop of canals and bridges is captivating
  • The beaches of Kerala - a range of beachside properties with individual villas, offering golden sands, crystal-clear waters and swaying palm trees, this is the ultimate in relaxation
  • The Kerala backwaters - a network of waterways and canals that wind their way through paddy fields, tiny hamlets and villages - here you can stay in beautiful riverside resort villas or, for the more adventurous, spend the night on a houseboat
  • The forested hill plantations around Thekaddy - tea, rubber and spice plantations are set in the hills away from the coast offering a chance to discover the secrets behind the spices of India before escaping to a peaceful/ hill-side eco retreat


Incentive travel - Kerala, India


Incentive travel - Kerala, India



What to do

There are so many magical experiences to be had which fully immerse visitors in the Keralan culture. From admiring exquisite local palaces to visiting villages where you can observe traditional crab farming, coconut picking, basket weaving and rope making.


Visit Kerala's spice plantations and discover the captivating blend of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg which fill the air with their heady scents. Relax on board a luxury boat or houseboat and take in the wonderful sights of the enchanting backwaters. Discover the fantastic wildlife of Periyar National Park which is famous for its tiger reserve and elephant sanctuary where you can ride and then wash your elephant.


Within a busy itinerary make sure you take some time out for a therapeutic Ayurveda massage, or perhaps try a little yoga or a meditation session at one of the beach resorts.


Incentive travel - Kerala, India

Malabar Junction


Incentive travel - Kerala, India



Dining out

It will come as no surprise that curry features high on most menus in Kerala. The offering is rich and varied, from traditional curries which tend to be relatively mildly spiced (think biryani or dopiaza rather than vindaloo) to the milder, creamier curries that the area is renowned for, all accompanied by a fantastic range of delicately spiced breads.


There is also an extensive range of vegetarian dishes on offer thanks to the country's Hindu culture. For those who aren't curry fans, most restaurants offer lightly spiced grilled prawns, fish or chicken along with salad and pasta or stir-fry.


For an interesting transfer to dinner try a ride on the back of a Royal Enfield motorbike!


Incentive travel - Kerala, India

Coconut Lagoon


Incentive travel - Kerala, India



Kerala by night

If you are looking for clubs and nightlife this probably isn't the place for your group. There are, however, plenty of fantastic evening entertainment options; opt for pre-dinner drinks on the club house veranda, followed by a private dinner and a little backgammon or snooker over coffee, or a fisherman's dinner where you can help locals haul in the nets before cooking your catch over an open fire.


A traditional cooking lesson is another great option, the head chef will teach you some of the secrets behind creating the perfect curry. A torch-lit dinner on the beach or a party on a houseboat as you cruise the backwaters also make for memorable nights.


It's worth noting there are quite restrictive licensing laws throughout Kerala with most restaurants and hotels below 5* only serving beer and wine.


Incentive travel - Kerala, India



Incentive travel - Kerala, India



Where to stay

There are a number of international hotel chains available, but to stay in one would seem to miss the point. This is an area that boasts a range of boutique, unusual hotels that all offer a uniquely Indian experience.


From Coconut Grove where you can stay in exquisite Keralan houses, to a 20 room Relais & Châteaux boutique property such as Malabar House in the middle of Kochi; the stunning Carnoustie 5* boutique hotel; or the Zuri Kumarakom Resort which offers a traditional spa centre with 10 treatment rooms and a menu of over 100 spa treatments.


Incentive travel - Kerala, India


Key facts

Kerala is five and a half hours ahead of GMT. The main international airport for Kerala is Kochi - there are numerous flights from the UK but they are indirect, involving one stop and taking a total travel time of 12.5 to 13.5 hours.


Because of the flight times and time difference the outbound flights are effectively 'overnight' which needs to be factored into your planning - we would generally recommend treating day one as a leisure day so guests can catch up.


Summer (April and May) is hot with 100% humidity and temperatures reaching 36°C, this is quickly followed by the monsoons in June and July. The best time to travel is between October and March. For incentives, however, the shoulder season - August to September - can work well as it offers better availability and flexibility as well as attractive rates.



Active are experts in arranging incentive travel. For more information on India, or to get a quote for your next group incentive trip, please contact us.

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