How would you define the growth of the tourism sector in south India and especially in Kerala?
South India has been the main growth sector in Indian tourism scene through PPP. It has established the image that India is beyond Delhi-Agra-Jaipur. Chennai-Bengaluru-Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad have become major entry points to India. The state of Andhra Pradesh stands to be number one state in terms of largest domestic tourists (over 16 crore domestic tourists) and private partnership hotels of international standard have been developed in Kochi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Even new destinations like Puducherry, Coorg in Karnataka, Wayanad in Kerala, Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Ooty have become the most sought destinations for tourists, both domestic and international.
What has been the role of IATO in south India?
IATO had collaborated with Kerala Tourism and with other states of south India (promotion of Puducherry) during the movie ‘Life of Pi’ to promote MICE tourism. This had a huge impact and we will continue to to boost south India with this present convention in Kochi. Kerala has made its own mark as the choicest destination in India. Even Agra, Varanasi, Goa, Rajasthan, Ladakh which remained popular in the tourist itinerary have become low in demand now compared to south destinations with Kerala as the prime choice. Even connectivity is much better from many traffic generating markets. The state offers some unique products like Ayurvedic resorts with wellness tourism, yoga meditation, water sports, backwater drive, unique cuisines and cultural diversity, eco-friendly environment, unique festivals. Kerala also offers a package with beaches, palaces of Travancore, wildlife in Pinyar, Kathakali and heritage, houseboats, lakes, waterfalls, spice in highlands, rural tourism experience, agro tourism in spice and tea gardens, Ayurvedic resorts (stress management therapies), museums, cave paintings, B&B establishments (homestay) in a package. This unique combination is not possible in the north. This awareness has been spread in the market through IATO members during their roadshows as well as through participation at international exhibitions.