Basking in positivity, Kerala Tourism Surges forward
Kerala was fast evolving into an all-season tourism destination of late, feverishly pushing monsoon season as an experiential product, when the same monsoon proved a party pooper with unprecedented rains causing havoc all over the State. But the vibrant tourism industry of the State, which enjoys the backing of an equally supportive and visionary government, was in no mood to throw up their hands in frustration. With unmatched synergy and verve they took measures to regain tourists’ confidence. Here is the story of Kerala Tourism which not only managed to stand on its feet post floods, but gallop and reclaim its high pedestal
Thiruvananthapuram: Call this the golden period of Kerala Tourism. Yes, the devastating floods that hit the State in 2018 lessened its charm for sometime but God’s Own Country has bounced back in an incredible way, once again proving its unmatched resilience. The credit of leading this magnificent comeback must go to Kadakampally Surendran, the soft-spoken State Tourism Minister, and his seasoned team at the Department of Tourism, who had never let the tourism industry down even in the face of unprecedented adversity. While the State Government had decided to limit its spending on events on account of the floods in August 2018, Kerala Tourism extended full support for conducting Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) in 2018 in September. In fact, that had helped significantly in sending a message across the globe that Kerala was safe and open for tourism.
Now, latest statistics shows Kerala Tourism has registered an impressive growth rate of 14.81 per cent in the second quarter of the current year as against the figures of the corresponding period in 2018. There was an increase of 6,39,271 tourists (both domestic and foreign) during April-June this year as compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. In the first quarter (Jan-Mar), the total number of tourist arrivals was 46,12,937 as compared to 43,18,406 during the same period in 2018.
The number of domestic tourists during the second quarter of 2019 increased to 47,73,739 as compared to the figure of 41,49,122 during the same period a year earlier, clocking a healthy 15.05 per cent growth rate.
After a span of nearly 10 months (May 2018 – March 2019 except December 2018), Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) showed a positive growth rate. Kerala Tourism bucked the negative trend in FTAs in the aftermath of last year’s calamitous floods, attracting 1,82,320 visitors from abroad in the second quarter of 2019 – a growth rate of 8.74 per cent as compared to the same period in the previous year. Overall, there was an increase of 14,654 international tourists during April-June 2019.
Speaking to Destination Kerala, Kadakampally Surendran said the positive growth rate in tourist arrivals from both inside the country and outside was achieved by a string of measures the State government had initiated swiftly to contain the damage caused by the floods to the tourism infrastructure of the State.
“We also launched an aggressive marketing campaign in both domestic and foreign markets to bolster our presence in the highly competitive tourism marketplace. The results are now there for everyone to see,” the Minister said.
The domestic tourist footfalls in Kerala got back to the normal level by the end of 2018 itself, but FTAs showed negative trends till the end of first quarter (January-March) of 2019. “This negative trend has now been reversed because of sustained efforts by Kerala Tourism to allay apprehensions of visitors from abroad about the impact of the catastrophic floods,” he added.
The Minister said the State Government intends to increase the share of contribution of the tourism sector in Kerala’s GDP from 12 per cent to 15 per cent. According to him, the government was making all efforts to regain the business in MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) tourism the State has lost due to a wrong policy of the previous UDF Government.
“The flawed liquor policy of the previous government saw our neighbouring destinations, including Sri Lanka, taking away the MICE business from us. Though the present LDF Government brought about drastic changes in the State’s tourism policy, we are yet to overcome completely from the considerable fall in MICE business and achieve the expected results. However, efforts are still on to make a big leap forward in MICE tourism and the upcoming Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) 2020 will be a perfect platform to further regain the business the State has lost.”
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Tourism is now on a brand-building mission to make the State one of the most sought-after global destinations. Though Kerala has firmly positioned itself on the world tourism map, there are still potential markets to be tapped.
“One of the biggest challenges Kerala is facing in the tourism sector is that we have to compete globally. The trade is facing tough competition from neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka and Maldives. We need to explore new markets. As part of this, Kerala Tourism has decided to hardsell the brand in non-English speaking countries, where people have little awareness about Kerala’s unique tourism products, especially Ayurveda,” he added.
On a national perspective, according to Minister Surendran, collective efforts are required to overcome the challenges impeding the growth of revenue and job-generating tourism sector in the country.
“Apart from reducing taxes, improving air connectivity and introducing competitive airfares, creating extensive connectivity between tier II and III cities should also be seriously taken up,” he added.
At the same time, it’s raining laurels for Kerala Tourism from across the globe. Recently, Kerala Tourism was bestowed with three prestigious Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold awards, including the one for an ethnic food restaurant run by women at Kumarakom under its Responsible Tourism Mission (RTM). The two other gold awards were for an advertisement campaign of Kerala Tourism – Come Out and Play – and for its website (www.keralatourism.org), respectively. While the advertising campaign was created by Stark Communications, the Kerala Tourism website has been designed and maintained by Invis Multimedia.
“Kerala Tourism has won the highest number of PATA awards in South Asia this year. India Tourism has bagged one award. It is a big honour for Kerala Tourism and also a strong validation of the State’s image as an alluring tourist destination. I am particularly happy for receiving the gold award for the women-run ethnic food restaurant at Kumarakom under RTM, which has become the mainstay of our tourism policy and initiatives. Out of the 15,500 RTM initiatives, 13,500 units are led by women,” the Minister added, citing it as yet another milestone in women empowerment the State is well known for.
Kerala is the only Indian State in the list of 20 trending destinations for 2020 published by Airbnb based on its Y-o-Y growth in bookings. Earlier in 2019, CNN Travel declared the State as one among the 19 places across the globe to visit in 2019.
Kerala Tourism’s website had 10 million visits during FY19 and is one among the top 10 tourism websites in Asia. It also hosts almost one lakh web pages and major sections of the site are available in 23 languages, too. The portal now competes with the tourism websites of countries like Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Korea and Australia for higher ranking!
Recently, Kerala Tourism’s Facebook page has become the second most followed in the whole of Asia after ‘Visit Dubai’. “The enviable feat has been achieved by a sustained social media and digital media campaign, especially ‘Human by Nature’ video film, which focused on the people of Kerala and garnered 15 million views,” he said. The Minister also mentioned about ‘Kerala Tales Video Campaign’, a series of 50-plus videos based on authentic stories from the State, which garnered over 60 million views online.
Kadakampally Surendran has also exhorted the tourism trade organisations and travel firms from across India to seek the services of Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) to strengthen business at a time when technology has an increasing say in the sector.
Kerala to Issue Guidelines, BIS Certification for Adventure Tourism
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Tourism will be laying guidelines and implementing a certification scheme from Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to promote a more systematic approach and safety in the field of adventure tourism. According to P Bala Kiran IAS, Director, Kerala Tourism, the procedural guidelines for registration are under consideration of the State government and would come into effect soon. This is for the first time in the country that BIS is joining hands with a State tourism board to draft guidelines to regulate adventure tourism.
“The aim is to make the adventure tourism players comply with safety and security standards. As per the new guidelines, all adventure activity providers will need to follow the guidelines and register with the Department of Tourism for running business for a period of two years. Moreover, qualified instructors and employees must be appointed at every such facility,” Bala Kiran said.
Kerala Tourism Facebook Gets 3.48 mN Likes
Thiruvananthapuram: Driven by brand new content and fascinating visuals, the user-friendly, interactive and information-laden Facebook page of Kerala Tourism has hit a new high, emerging as the most-followed tourism page in South Asia, surpassing tourism boards of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand by a fair margin. The number of ‘likes’ on Kerala Tourism’s Facebook page has tripled in the past two years, touching a figure of 34,81,239, thus outdoing Tourism Malaysia (3.3 million likes), Visit Singapore (3.2 million) and Amazing Thailand (2.6 million likes). Internationally, now only three countries – Australia (8.3 million likes), Go USA (6.7 million) and Visit Dubai (6.7 million) – are ahead of Kerala. “It is to be noted that we are just a State tourism board and not a Regional or National Tourism Organisation (RTO/NTO)!” he said.
When compared to the portals of other Departments of Tourism in the country, Kerala retains the number one position by a huge margin, by Gujarat (13,36,836), Madhya Pradesh (11,98,165), Rajasthan (5,88,453), Uttarakhand (4,94,992) and Odisha (2,38,143).
Bala Kiran said: “Our aim is to become the best Facebook page in the world by 2021. The burgeoning popularity of our user-friendly Facebook page has been powered by rich content and influencer programmes like Kerala Blog Express, now in its sixth edition, to tap into the power of the social media influencer.”
Efforts are also being made for posting updates in seven Indian languages to cater to the domestic audience. “Social media has helped us connect with all segments of the population. Through a sound content strategy based on engagement data analysis, we have been able to fine-tune our content for better reach and create specific content for audiences with specific interests,” he added.
Tapping Chinese Market is Kerala Tourism’s Next Mission
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Tourism has embarked on a new mission to attract more Chinese travellers to the State. It has joined hands with Welcome China, a government-accredited initiative that works to help travel and tourism sector engage meaningfully with China and became the first Indian State to be partnered with the China Ready programme, which has already been conducted in 48 countries.
Efforts are on to design a marketing strategy to increase their footfall, said Rani George IAS, Secretary, Kerala Tourism. “It is important for the State to tap the strong China market which sends 150 million tourists across the world. For this, Kerala will do a sustained China Ready campaign with definite partnerships at G2G, B2B and B2C-levels,” she said.
Despite deep historical, cultural and continental connect, Kerala is still not a tourist destination frequented by Chinese travellers. “With the China Ready programme, we hope to get an opportunity to open avenues for not only cultural exchanges but also for tapping mutual economic benefits. Tapping the Chinese market will also boost the State’s revenue from tourism substantially,” she added.
Recently, Beijing-based Richard Matuzevich of the World Tourism Cities Federation, while in Kochi, commented that China’s emerging class of young, educated and resource-rich travellers are passionate about visiting countries, especially in East and South Asia, but India is yet to figure in their list of top eight destinations.
Making an overview of the current scenario, Rani George said though Kerala is firmly positioned on the world tourism map it is also faced with stiff competition from other States. “It is true that other States are emulating Kerala. We are facing aggressive competition from them,’’ she said, exhorting industry to live up to the challenges. Noting that tourist preferences are shifting and people are increasingly looking forward to travelling as an experience, she said Kerala has proved to be a trendsetter in experiential tourism by promoting Responsible and Sustainable Tourism models.
Earlier this year, Rani George led a Kerala Tourism delegation to the United States and showcased the State’s signature products before leading stakeholders of travel and tourism industry in four major cities – New Jersey, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles. “Kerala might be a long-haul destination but its touristy charm has remained undiminished for travellers from America. The US was second among the top 10 source markets for foreign arrivals to the State in 2018,” she said.
There has been a consistent increase in the number of US travellers visiting Kerala. In 2018, the number of tourists from the US was pegged at 96,522 compared to 75,773 in 2015.
Kerala Travel Mart 2020 to Seek Quality Buyers
Thiruvananthapuram: The 11th edition of the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) will be held in Kochi in September, 2020. Kerala’s largest congregation of tourism industry will witness stakeholders across the country and abroad seeking new ways to promote business. KTM 2020 will aim at exploring new markets for Champions Boat League (CBL), adventure tourism and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) along with finding excellent global buyers. The venue will be Sagara and Samudrika convention centres of Cochin Port Trust in Willingdon Island.
The biennial conclave, being organised by KTM Society with the support of the Kerala Government’s Department of Tourism, will see increased number of quality buyers from countries that have the potential to provide a fillip to the State’s travel industry. Further, KTM 2020 aims to go a step ahead in buyer selection, stall allocation and buyer-seller appointment. The event could lend fresh impetus to Kerala’s tourism sector and help it put up a good show after the year’s major flood.
Baby Mathew Somatheeram, President, KTM Society, said unlike in the past, the four-day schedule has been fixed for providing a platform for buyers and sellers to hold effective interactions.
Rupesh Kumar K, State Coordinator, Kerala RT Mission
Initiatives of Kerala’s Responsible Tourism Mission (RTM) have never been a showcase activity. We have created our own model and always been working to ensure that tourism activities touch local people’s lives meaningfully. The present distinctions are the result of decade-long work and will impart further strength to community-friendly tourism in Kerala. Currently, over 50,000 families enjoy the fruits of Responsible Tourism in the State as it provides livelihood to around 30,000 people directly and more than 45,000 people indirectly
Champions' Boat League
Billed as a game-changing initiative modelled on the Indian Premier League, the Champions Boat League (CBL), which seeks to professionalise Kerala’s largely scattered snake-boat races, by commercialising them without losing the conventional spirit, is currently underway in Kerala’s quiet backwaters. Being organised by Kerala Tourism, the CBL, with nine teams, features 12 rounds of races slated across Saturdays at 12 different locations till November 23, 2019. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan flagged off the event on August 31 in the presence of Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. Tickets can be booked online through ‘Book my Show’ platform.