S. Anil Radhakrishnan
Plan to promote Malabar as tourism destination
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala Tourism has been able to come up with innovative tourism products to attract visitors to `God's Own Country' and register remarkable growth in tourist arrivals. The aim of all stakeholders in the tourism industry should be to convert the State into a 365-day destination, says Director of Tourism B. Suman.
"It is not viable to have a destination for six months. Fairs, festivals and new tourism products have to be created for the off-season. The five-day monsoon festival being organised in the capital from Wednesday is an effort to attract tourists to the State during the monsoon period," says Mr. Suman on the plans chalked out by Kerala Tourism.
Last year was the best tourist season for the State, after it overcame the crises following tsunami and bird flu. The State registered 3.65 lakh foreign tourist and 59.60 lakh domestic tourist arrivals last year. The tourism authorities are hoping to deliver better results this year.
An IAS officer of the 1996 batch, Mr. Suman says what worries the authorities is that the State had not been able to attract domestic tourists in large numbers despite the tourism boom being witnessed in the country. "We are facing direct competition from cheap destinations such as Singapore and Bangkok. We are unable to cash in on the boom and to attract the domestic tourists who fly to cheaper destinations," he says.
While foreign tourist arrivals to the State grew in the range of 13-14 per cent last year compared to the previous year, the growth in the domestic arrivals was only 2 per cent. The immediate aim is to achieve a growth of 5 per cent in domestic arrivals. The efforts to package monsoon and attract tourists is an attempt towards this direction. Campaigns are on in four metros and the feedback from hotels has been encouraging.
A native of Hyderabad, Mr. Suman did his graduation from Madras Christian College and took his Masters in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University and later M.Phil from the London School of Economics.
The entry of low-cost carriers into the domestic sector is expected to attract a new segment of tourists and the State will benefit a great deal from it. Talks are also on with Jet Airways to promote Malabar region. Mr. Suman, who is the director since January 2005, says Malabar region's tourism potential has not been tapped. Malabar needs a set of viable, bankable projects for attracting tourists. "Wayanad is the engine of growth and Bekal is the magnet for Malabar. The proposed airport at Kannur will ensure access and boost tourism development of the north," he says.
Steps have also been taken to aggressively market the State as a destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) and as a health tourism destination. Instead of tapping new markets, Mr. Suman says the attempt would be to consolidate on the existing markets and to attract tourists in a big way.
The tourism director says the licensing system will check the misuse of ayurvedic centres.
The trade and the police have been asked to keep vigil on the 600-odd houseboats that operate in the backwaters of the State, he adds.