The showcase destination
A great product needs to keep reinventing itself – for the repeat traveller and for keeping up with the latest trends from all across the world. Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) chairman Cherian Philip says that the tourism sector is expected to register 25% growth this year. He says that the destination is being marketed in newer markets. “Last year, Kerala did intensive campaigning in the Gulf countries and in this monsoon we are witnessing the results. Now we are taking our campaign to emerging markets such as Japan, China, Australia and Russia. “
Dr V Venu, Kerala’s secretary tourism, says that the department has been participating in trade fairs. “The Rajdhani was taken over by Kerala Tourism and branded with our stunning visuals. We could not take over trains in the UK so we had to satisfy ourselves with cabs.”
He also says that the snake boat race from Kerala may be showcased at the 2012 London Olympics.
CMD Intersight and chapter chairman of the 46-member strong ADTOI in Kerala, Abraham George says, “There is tremendous growth in domestic space. Kerala’s tourist growth is led by domestic tourists. We hosted 7million domestic travellers last year. We had only 7lakh inbound travellers. We are moving into innovative tours, farm tourism, adventure tourism, rural tourism, culture tourism. We are asking the government to create CNG depots near important destinations, so we can be carbon-free. We are planning to introduce an auto-rickshaw race.”
Sisupalan, MD Sagara Resort in Kovalam says that domestic tourism has to be given importance. “Most tourists come from Delhi, from Kolkata during pooja holidays and Ahmedabad during Diwali holidays. Our hotel’s 92 rooms are fully booked then. The season for inbound, mostly from Germany and the UK, is from November to March. We work mostly with tour operators, where commission goes up from 15% to 25% depending on their ability to get us bookings,” he says.
“On the supply side,” Dr Venu says, “with new properties coming in, the product remains fresh. Locations such as Kasargode, considered remote are the focus of new resorts.”
KTM also become the setting for the launch of what is called the most expensive resort in Kerala, The Lalit Resort and Spa in Bekal.
Another new initiative is to do with the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL). “We will be working as a nodal agency to promote tourism in Kochi. We want to promote Kochi as a gateway to tourism in Kerala,” says Ramesan T from CIAL.
CIAL’s new website includes the details of 30 tour operators that it has signed MoUs with. The tour operators are divided into three segments according to their price range. “At least 20% of domestic tourists in Kerala are walk-in. They land up at the airport and check out the place. This’ll cater to them,” he says.
New products introduced at the KTM include Muziris excavations, resorts, homestays and hotels.
But the hidden gems of Kerala are not limited to these. Tour operators are beginning to suggest complex, experiential itineraries. “Travellers are not tourists. I create products for Intersight, suggesting destinations such as Anjuruli, where there is 50km stretch of a tunnel which is not filled with water during summer. Kolukkumalai, near Munnar, is the world’s highest tea plantation. It is a great trekking area. In the North, we have a destination called the Ooty of Kerala,” says Srijith, a consultant.
In fact, nearby destinations want to piggy-back on the state’s aggressive tourism promotions. “We have tourists coming here from Trichy or Madurai.
We’d want them to stay with us for a day or two, at Puducherry,” says ST Chidambaram, manager, department of tourism.