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Kerala leaves the 'hippy days' to move upmarket

Innovative startups surprise holidaymakers in south India's most-visited state

A Theyyam Muthappan performance at Parassinikadavu, a riverside temple between Payyanur and Kannur in North Kerala (Photo by Kit Yeng Chan)

KOCHI, India -- Touted since the 1970s as an idyllic destination for backpackers, the wild beaches and jungles of the southern Indian state of Kerala have gone steadily upmarket over the years. Boasting a large selection of accommodations, from full-fledged resorts to eco-homestays, Kerala now attracts high-spending international tourists with yoga retreats, ayurvedic treatments, and luxurious properties.

"The type of tourists coming to our shores has changed, and we don't see that many backpackers anymore," said K.P. Francis, a senior hotel manager with two decades of experience in some of southern India's best resorts. He now runs the boutique homestay The Francis Residence on the first floor of his home in Fort Kochi, a seaside area in the city of Kochi, also known as Cochin, on India's Arabian Sea coast.

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