It is a miniature Kerala on display.
It smells of spices at one corner and sweet whiff of perfume at another. It was jungle-like with a stream and sounds of birds chirping at one end while homely homestays greeted you at the entrance.
The Kerala Travel Mart at Le Meridien was a visual treat with a minefield of information on tourism ventures in the State, peppered with over 400 stalls and table spaces that displayed the best of Kerala.
Every two years, the sellers, best known as tourism entrepreneurs in B2B circuit, go all out to woo buyers. This time, around 500 buyers from 48 countries and over 1,500 from India have turned up as buyers to check out ventures in Kerala.
The pride of place has been given to small players — homestays and a few new comers to the sector — by providing them space at the mart entrance. The bigger ones have lavish spreads towards the west, with the marina full of houseboats abutting the backwaters.
The Kerala Tourism stall grabbed the eyeballs and soothed the ears with its jungle-like background with a stream and the tweeting birds.
Engaged in hard-selling was Pirkko Paxton, hostess of Aanavilasam Luxury Plantation House in Thekkady. A native of Finland, she “fell in love with Kerala” 10 years ago during a visit with her husband. The couple is based in Thekkady for the past six years, providing guests with the best of two worlds.
A trained professional in catering and hospitality, she spoke of how every guest (80 per cent of whom are foreigners) is a challenge. “But it is a rewarding experience. At the end of the day, anything can go wrong in this part of the world, power shutdown being the chief villain,” Ms. Paxton said.
Her word of advice to boost tourism and make commuting less of a strain – an oft-repeated one at that – “build good, wide roads and stop littering.”
With properties going the eco-friendly way, the Banasura Hill Resort in Wayanad is marketing its accommodation units made of mud walls and thatched roof. “We use bamboo curtains and wooden furniture. Nature walks, visit to tribal villages, exploring historical caves and trekking up the Banasura Hill are arranged on request,” said Praveen of the resort.
Just like in mainland Kerala, Lakshadweep Tourism too is keen on having seaplane services. “Ten of the 36 islands are inhabited and they can be linked by seaplane. Trial runs are over,” said personnel of its stall at the mart.
Heritage homes which are now heritage home stays are another attraction. Among them is Olappamanna Mana in Vellinezhi, a silent village in Palakkad, which has the catch words “Hours, you remember for years”. “Most of our guests are foreigners and we serve only vegetarian food,” said Sreedevi, the hostess. The eerie silence there is broken only by the wind and the chirping of birds, she added.
From far away Kasargod has come Oyster Opera, an eco-friendly island resort blessed with proximity to the sea and the backwaters. Oyster farming and fishing are the main activity in the isle. “It is high time the Government focused some more on developing tourism in Kerala’s northern districts,” said Premjith, who is associated with another resort in Kasargod.
An umbrella maker too has a stall, perhaps to market monsoon tourism.
Apart from hospitality stakeholders, airlines, ayurveda centres, farm stays, speciality hospitals, travel and tour operators who offer adventure, backwater, heritage, monsoon, plantation, wedding packages too are marketing their ventures.
Keywords: Kerala Travel Mart