Foreign tourists arrivals hit

Recession in Europe, competition in traditional markets and from Sri Lanka, and a host of other factors have hit tourist arrivals to the State.

The season has been bad compared to last year with rooms remaining vacant even in reputed hotels till December 20, a senior marketing official of a five star hotel chain told The Hindu from Kochi. It had picked up since then, which he attributed to Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Even on the eve of Christmas, rooms were available in hotels and resorts across the State, except in Thekkady and Munnar. Hotels and resorts of the State-owned KTDC registered occupancy of 80 per cent during the peak period from December 23.

Surprisingly, the dip in arrivals did not impact the houseboat sector. South Kerala had been the worst affected with air fares ruling high.

The days ahead are not encouraging. Tour operators say Chinese tourists arriving in north India are not evincing interest in the region.

Foreign tourists visiting southern India are also not keen to visit the State, with Karnataka emerging as a favourite destination.

Compared to over 1,300 chartered flights Goa is getting this season, Kerala is getting just eight from Ekaterinburg, the fourth largest city in Russia. By January 10, only one chartered flight had landed in the State capital.

“This reflects the deserting of Kerala by foreign tourists. Inbound tourism, especially from foreign countries, had been hit. Hotels handling foreign tourists alone had been affected. The arrival of domestic tourists is a solace but they do not stay for long,” a leading tour operator said.

The inability of Kerala Tourism to tap new markets such as Canada, make use of the Tourist Visa on Arrival (T-VoA) facility at the Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi airports, lack of marketing, and high taxes are costing the State dear, he said.

President of the Confederation of Tourism Industry, Kerala, E.M. Najeeb said the tourism season was not on expected lines. “The slowdown in Europe, competition from source markets, adjoining countries and States, waste management issues, and rise in communicable diseases have been detrimental,” he said. Sri Lanka, being a cheap destination with features similar to Kerala, is posing a threat, he added.

Mr. Najeeb said high taxes in different segments such as MICE, transport, and luxury had taken a toll on the sector. The government should come up with proactive steps or else the two-decade effort of the State to make Kerala one of the must-see destinations would be wasted, he added.

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