Our biggest award would be when Kerala gets back its top position on the world tourism map: Rani George, secretary Kerala Tourism
In a bid to check out Kerala’s readiness to welcome visitors to its globally renowned destinations, the department of tourism, Kerala recently conducted a Tourism Readiness Survey. Speaking to the media, Rani George, tourism secretary, Government of Kerala informed, “The Department of Tourism, Kerala conducted a Tourism Readiness Survey from September 5 to 15 covering the 14 districts of the state. We identified 70 major destinations to find out the status of the connectivity and the hotels in these destinations. Tourism officials actually visited these places to determine their readiness to open for tourism business. We did the survey to collect the database and also to tell the reality to the world.”
In 2017, the state popularly known as God’s Own Country saw a 11.39 per cent increase in arrivals with 10.91 lakh international visitors and 146 lakh domestic visitors. The private sector has estimated a loss of nearly INR 500 crore for August and a loss of another INR 1000 crore if tourism does not revive.
She added, “Thankfully, with each passing day Kerala is bouncing back. Under the able leadership of our chief minister, many NGOs, defence and police personnel all came together for rescue and relief operations. Including the local fishermen. Thanks to them, almost 90 per cent of the popular tourism destinations like Munnar, Wayanad, Kumarakom, Alappuzha became operational one month after the floods. This was possible due to the tourism fraternity’s support and strong support from other trade associations. Eravikulam National Park where the Neelakuruniji has bloomed after 12 years opened to the public on September 1 with a temporary bridge. Neelakurunji has blossomed in many parts of Munnar as well. Boating in Thekkady too has resumed. Except for Thrissur (Vayachal/Atthirapilly Waterfalls) and Palakkad (Parambikulam Tiger Reserve) which are two districts that are still not fully ready due to connectivity issues.” Kerala Tourism has been holding several partnership meets across the country in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, etc.
Kerala Tourism won many awards at the recent PATA event. The department won four awards including the PATA Gold Award for the Yalla Kerala campaign created for the Middle East market. Five awards were won by private tour operators. George commented, “Our biggest award however would be when Kerala gets back its top position on the world tourism map and visitors start arriving in huge numbers.”
She also informed that Kerala’s fourth international airport will open on December 9 in Kannur. “This will give the much needed connectivity to the Malabar region with a high potential for tourism but was being bypassed due to connectivity issues. Our focus will be in the northern part of Kerala which has a vibrant rich cultural heritage,” she said. The region also has many rivers so the department will soon be starting the Malabar River Cruise. The department will be setting up boat jetties and terminals so that private operators can run cruises on these waterways.
Kerala Tourism’s major markets have been UK, USA and the European and Middle East countries. On the domestic front, the southern states, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi have been dominating.
The 10th edition of the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) was held this year against all odds. “We are happy to say that KTM 2018 was much bigger than the previous edition – we had 593 international buyers from 66 countries, 1090 national buyers and 313 sellers. In fact, due to space constraints we had to scale down the registrations from over 7000 buyers to just around 1600! Such a large number warranties that for the next edition of KTM, we may need a much bigger venue. We also organised pre event tours to many parts of Kerala so that stakeholders (both buyers and media) could get the real picture,” said George.
When asked whether the local fishermen who have been honoured by the state government for their heroic efforts during the rescue operations would be a part of future tourism campaigns, she said that in the coming month, a film for which the photoshoot is already being prepared will reveal a different aspect of Kerala and will show the state in a different tourism perspective.
Elucidating about the new projects, George said, “The hugely popular Kochi Biennale will be held again this year – it has placed Kochi as the art capital of India. Then the newly opened Jatayu Earth Centre, a PPP project where the government provided the land on lease. The project has a cable car system imported from Switzerland and an international standard virtual reality museum scheduled to be launched in November.” She also added that the department has plans to introduce a Champions Boat League next season which will include all boat races in Kerala so that visitors arriving in Kerala between August to November will be able to see one boat race every Saturday. “Also, for the Village Experiences package, we are looking at including the flood affected areas so that the local communities can be benefitted. We will also be implementing the Thalassery Heritage project soon,” she said.
For safety purposes, the department has introduced a GPS tracking system for houseboats to monitor their whereabouts and appointed local residents as Tourism Wardens to look into any safety concerns.