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State tourism industry facing tough times

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John L. Paul

20 per cent cancellation in ‘room bookings’

KOCHI: Players in the State’s tourism sector are keeping their fingers crossed, faced with the prospect of a fall in tourist arrivals because of the global financial crisis.

A quick survey of hotels conducted by Kerala Tourism showed that there was approximately 20 per cent cancellation in ‘room bookings’ for November and December. Tourist arrivals had conventionally been very high in the said months.

The worst hit would be tour operators and small and medium players like home stays, those engaged in farm tourism and tourist guides.

Kerala Tourism V. Venu said though this was bad news it would not cripple the sector altogether. “The crisis would hit tourism because people can always postpone their holidays. But hoteliers and others are quite optimistic since the State’s tourism industry is resilient. Unlike a few other States, we are not fully dependant on the arrival of foreign nationals. Kerala has a healthy mix of domestic and foreign tourists,” he said.

Even prominent players were apprehensive as the sentiment to travel has weakened across the globe. “This would be a testing year for the sector,” said Jose Dominic, the managing director and chief executive office of Casino Group of Hotels. “Players in the sector might not be able to sustain the momentum of growth witnessed in the past years. But Kerala being a destination that attracts alert and independent travellers, prospects are not all that bad,” he said.

Any fall in hotel-room occupancy would mean that hotels would have to offer discounts on tariff.

The hike in air fare has already come as a disincentive to travel. The State would be the worst hit due to its location in the Southern tip of the country.

“The government should intervene and lessen the impact on tourism. It is high time that it reviewed the tax structure (luxury tax, bar licence fee etc). The government should also ease the procedures to start a tourism enterprise. Even home stays have been affected because they are charged commercial power tariff and have to pay tax. After all, small entrepreneurs are the ones who make a destination what it is and they deserve a better due from the government,” Mr Dominic said.

As of now, Kerala Tourism hopes that the numerous road shows held in cities in the country and abroad and participation in international tourism fairs would begin yielding results. Road shows are planned in prominent European cities in the coming months.

With airline fares being increased, Kerala Tourism is wooing markets close to India. Australia and South-East Asia are seen as emerging markets. There is increasing demand to lower the tax on aviation-turbine fuel.

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