Kerala to exhibit the unexplored

Kerala’s tourism department will soon launch a promotional campaign for the European and North American markets to showcase Northern Kerala, which includes unexplored destinations like Kozhikode, Wayanad, Bekal and Kannur and Malappuram. P. Bala Kiran, IAS, Director, Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, reveals more about their plans…

HAZEL JAIN

Q How is Kerala promoting itself in international market?

Kerala Tourism has planned several B2B meets across high-potential international markets such as the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, West Asia, China, Japan, North America and Australia. As part of the ambitious promotional campaign for the ongoing financial year 2017-18, Kerala Tourism has planned 24 roadshows and 12 trade fairs with an estimated cost of around Rs 11.5 crore. The Department has chosen international markets for the trade events after analysing tourist arrivals over the last five years. The department will soon launch a mega promotional campaign for the European and North American markets to showcase diversified products of Kerala, conduct roadshows and travel fairs.

Q Are you developing new source markets?

Yes, we are implementing a detailed marketing plan for new markets like Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Malaysia and Singapore. After inking an agreement with SilkAir for the South-East Asian markets, the department is now eyeing a similar tie-up with Jet Airways and Etihad Airways so as to gain a good foothold in the West Asia market. Middle East is one of the high-potential markets for Kerala. We recently launched ‘Yalla Kerala’ (‘Let’s Go Kerala’ in Arabic) campaign targeting tourists in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. The Tourism Department of Kerala aims to increase international tourist arrivals by 13 per cent every year. The objective is to double the foreign arrivals by 2021.

Q What destinations do you want to promote in international markets?

We have been extensively focusing on promoting Northern Kerala, which includes unexplored destinations like Kozhikode, Wayanad, Bekal, Kannur and Malappuram.

Q What PPP projects are you working on right now?

PPP projects have always played an instrumental role as one of the key strategies for promoting state tourism. The tourism department truly understands the significance of PPP model for overall growth of the tourism sector. We believe in being a promoter of the industry, rather than a regulator. The state has been following robust infrastructural development plans through responsible and sustained tourism.

We have Kerala’s first BOT (build, operate, transfer) model, eco-tourism project under the PPP model called ‘Jatayu Earth’s Center’. It is spread over 65 acres at Jatayupara in Kollam district and will be open for tourists by end of 2017. It will be the world’s largest bird sculpture of the mythical bird Jatayu (200 feet long, 70 feet in height, 15,000 square feet floor area).

Moreover, Kerala Tourism has planned to connect the ports of Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode with cruise ships. Based on the PPP model, this joint endeavour of a tourism board and a Dubai-based private investor will result in commissioning a 130-seater cruise ship which could travel at a speed of 30 knots. In addition to that, Kerala Tourism has been taking considerable steps towards encouraging PPP participation, including fast-track clearance for tourism projects and residential tariff for home-stays.

Q How much are you investing in upgrading tourism infrastructure?

With the aim to increase the geographical spread of arrivals to the state, Kerala Tourism plans to promote its Malabar region aggressively through a Rs 325 crore project, which includes unexplored destinations such as Kozhikode, Wayanand, Bekal and Kannur. To promote river cruises, the Government of Kerala has envisioned a Rs 300-crore project for nine rivers in Kannur and Kasaragod. In order to ease travel for international tourists, Cochin International Airport has been entrusted to execute the cruise tourism project by forming a Special Purpose Vehicle. In addition, the state government is planning to develop a few adventure parks. The government has allocated Rs 45 crore for Prasadam project under the Central scheme and Rs 120 crore under its Green Carpet scheme for Alappuzha, Enranjil, Neyyar and Thenmala. This initiative is aimed at building a sustainable destination management system in Kerala through participation and partnerships. The state government also plans to develop 10 eco-tourism circuits to connect various forests in order to promote green tourism.

Q What aspects of the tourism policy are you focusing on right now?

With the prime focus on promoting adventure tourism, the department has been working closely with the State Forest Department. The joint endeavour will result in the growth of adventure tourism without affecting the environment. The interest of international travellers is increasingly gravitating towards adventure tourism and meaningful experiences. Kerala will be re-branded as ‘The Land of Adventure’ in order to woo the younger generation. We have plans to develop water activities like kayaking and cruise tourism. Our department is also keen on promoting homestays and rural tourism. Owing to the changing preference of travellers for real travelling experiences through experiencing village life, the demand for homestays has increased. The tourism department has also been working towards implementing ‘Barrier-Free Kerala’ to create accessible spaces to the differently-abled and elderly tourists.

Tourist traffic

Kerala registered a remarkable increase in international tourists’ arrival in 2016 with 10,38,419 tourists, making an increase of 6.25 per cent over the previous year.

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