Tourist haven Kerala bans alcohol sale

India's tropical tourist haven Kerala is to phase out the sale of alcohol in an attempt to tackle rising levels of drunkenness across the region.

The state government said it would restrict the sale of alcohol to five-star hotels, cancel the licences of hundreds of bars and close a number of state liquor shops every year until there is complete prohibition within 10 years.

The ban makes Kerala one of six Indian states where the sale of alcohol is prohibited, alongside Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi's home state.

The move was welcomed by political leaders in the state and Gandhian campaigners who promote temperance, but was criticised by hoteliers who said it would cause a dramatic decline in tourist numbers.

Radhakrishna Shenoi, the general manager of Cochin's celebrated four-star hotel Brunton Boatyard, said it would be seriously affected by the ban. "The impact will be huge. People want to have a drink when they come on holiday," he said.

"We don't make much money out of it but it is a crucial facility without which we could lose a lot of our customers. Not just our hotel but Kerala as a destination."

Kerala is known as "God's own country" but it is also India's hardest-drinking state. In 2012, the consumption of alcohol there was almost four times the national average.

India is the world's largest consumer of whisky and many people drink illegal "country-made liquor", which causes more than 100 deaths a year.

VM Sudheeran, the state's Congress Party leader and a temperance campaigner, welcomed the decision and said it would help the poor.

"We were heading to disaster. Our society was facing tremendous financial problems, there was increase in domestic violence because of alcohol consumption," he said.

The Telegraph, London