The ongoing Kerala Travel Mart looks to meet the challenges faced by the industry head on

Kerala is on the bucket list of travellers. It is a must-see destination. Rated as one of the top 10 places to visit in the world, it now stands at the crossroads. The question is whether it would move ahead, sustain this position or slip down in this fast changing global tourism scenario.

The challenges faced by the industry are many. At the ongoing Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) one saw the industry, represented by sellers, buyers, hoteliers, travel operators and decision makers in a mood to face the challenges head on. There was all round optimism that would hopefully translate into ways and means of keeping abreast—of revamping and reinventing.

Already in a mood to reinvent, the Minister of Tourism, A. P. Anil Kumar was ready with ideas of diversifying tourism into lesser-known places in the State, thus stretching its scope. “We are focussing on lesser-known places in the State. We have already identified about 50 such places which have great potential. A sizeable Central Government fund has already been allocated, he said.” Vaikom, he pointed out, was one such town with a great potential for tourism. Nileeswaram, in North Kerala, too, would come under the umbrella of tourism.

Beating the competition

Riaz Ahmed, president, KTM, was pleased at the enthusiasm and turnout of participants at the event, with nearly 2,000 registrations. Putting things in perspective, he pointed out that the threat to the industry from neighbouring countries, especially Sri Lanka, was real but they were devising ways to beat the competition. Monsoon tourism, he said, had not picked up as they hoped, but the inflow of tourists from West Asia during this time was encouraging. This, he hoped, would crystallise in the coming years. The new concept of ‘Responsible Tourism’ was paying off and its benefits reaching locals and the locality.

At the venue, the upbeat mood was palpable with meetings and greetings. Each aspect of tourism in Kerala was amply represented. Farm tourism, houseboats, the cultural diversity of the State, Ayurveda, heritage tourism, medical tourism, backwater and beaches were all present at the venue, bringing the different facets of Kerala under one roof.

S. Jaykrishnan, consultant with Evergreen Travels, said that Ayurveda was a big attraction for Russian travellers and he was looking at the new properties that had come up in the field. He, of course, had plenty to choose from. Mami Davis, who brings in Japanese travellers to the State, was now focussing on bringing Japanese residing in India to Kerala as the air fares had gone through the roof and was pinching even the affluent holidayers. “Kerala is the flavour among Japanese,” she said with a smile.

Undiscovered trails

Highlighting the possibilities for adventure tourism in the State, Wajid Sait of Y Adventurez, hoped to take groups through undiscovered trails and treks. Dr. Abhilash Jacob, representing dental tourism, an aspect that has gained a foothold in the State, said that KTM was a good platform for networking. He has been a part of KTM for the past three years.

Ajeesh of Timeless Traveller, a Chennai-based travel planning company that specialises in farm tourism, spoke of its rising popularity in the West. “The idea of interacting with farmers in Kerala’s villages is a big fad in the West.

Tourists, especially from Europe, love spending time with the farmers and participating in their day-to-day activities such as weeding, stacking and sowing.”

The Kerala History and Art Museum representatives were enthused at promoting their museum, which showcases the art and history of the State. “Each enquiry can turn into a guest,” said Seeja Manoj, administrator. A New Delhi based travel group, Creative Travel, whose one aspect of service is of discovering India through train journeys, was looking at Kerala from this angle

North Kerala was represented by a number of resorts and hotels. A large number of travel operators and airlines were present, each showcasing their offers and packages, season and off-season. Hotels were present at the event showcasing their resort, cuisine and hospitality.

All this networking, meetings, greetings and exchanges had one common aim—to ride over the challenges of recession, and inflation.

As an effort to adapt to the changing economic scene, competition from within and from other countries and retaining the business and the guests, the annual KTM definitely comes as a driver for growth in the field.