With foreign tourists turning up in much lower numbers than expected even with the start of the tourism and festival season, stakeholders in the State’s tourism sector are peeved at the “slack response” of Kerala Tourism (KT) in wooing new and emerging markets abroad.
They have also expressed concern at what they termed as the government and KT not taking representatives from the sector into confidence for policy-making, marketing and other initiatives.
Advisory committee ineffective
“The situation is such that even the 108-member tourism advisory committee has not met during the past year. Marketing of the State’s destinations and tourism products abroad too has gone for a toss, although tourist arrivals from Ukraine and Russia are next to nil owing to the war. There is a steep fall in the number of guests from Europe as well and this does not augur well for the sector which is yet to emerge from the shadow cast by the pandemic during the past two years,” said a veteran tourism professional.
Former member of the tourism advisory committee Ravisankar K.V. said income from tourism had contributed to approximately 12% of Kerala’s GDP till the pandemic had struck. “Still, it has potential to contribute 20% of the GDP, considering its collateral impact on allied sectors like real estate, IT, medical tourism, culture and rural economy/agriculture. The lull in arrival of foreign tourists will get worse if steps are not taken to protect beaches in the State. The worst hit will be the Kovalam beach, since the Vizhinjam port project could prove the death knell for the beach, which is extremely popular among foreigners,” he said.
Many others have been ruing how delay in extending e-visa for tourists from the U.K. would hit the tourism sector hard since they constituted the largest number of foreign tourists to the State.
Need for better marketing
Sajeev Kurup, the president of Kerala Ayurveda Promotion Society and the chairman of the Ayurveda task force of FICCI tourism committee, said the State ought to invest heavily in wooing foreign tourists and high-spending ones, so that mass tourism and weekend tourism as was being witnessed in Munnar and Fort Kochi did not topple the carrying capacity of destinations. He sought reconstitution of the tourism advisory committee, limiting the number of members from the present 108, and conduct of regular meetings to evolve policies and marketing strategies in consultation with hospitality, wellness, travel and allied stakeholders.
Admitting that there was lesser-than-expected arrival of foreign and domestic tourists, a high-ranking official of KT said the State was desperately in need of activity-based tourism products, considering the post-pandemic demand for experiential tourism. “This would in turn attract young travellers also,” he added.