Attracting tourists through the game of football

Staff Reporter

KOCHI: The State Tourism Department began an all-out effort to woo tourists during the rainy season, about three years ago. The health benefits of undergoing Ayurveda treatments and massage this season, the romantic halo of organising a traditional Kerala wedding in the State (with the monsoons providing the right ambience), the economy tourism packages available during the season and the green-carpet welcome that plants and trees give the guests provide quite an assortment of goodies to tourists.

Boosting private participation in the monsoon-promotional drive is the Tourism Professionals’ Club, which represents prominent tour operators in the State. They have arranged a soccer festival titled ‘Shoot the Rain’, at Parade Ground, Fort Kochi on June 28 and 29. The peculiarity of the event that is being held for the third year is that two foreign nationals being hosted by each of the participating teams (mainly luxury-hotel employees) too can play along with the teams.

“The monsoon provides the right ambience to play a hardy game like football. Estimates during the past three years say that tourist inflow during the monsoons is increasing by 10 per cent each year. The game will be a value-addition to monsoon tourism,” said Thomas Varghese, the Club’s president. Apart from north Indian tourists, many come from the Middle-East countries and Europe.

The main target group is foreign tourists who play the game and those who come to view it. Thus Kerala will get international exposure during the season. Twenty-two teams have confirmed participation, he added. A technical committee comprising Rufuz D’Souza and T. A. Jaffar – football coaches, are fine-tuning the arrangements. Mr. Jafar said that FIFA rules will be applicable to the event. “But football boots have been prohibited and only canvas shoes can be worn, for fear of causing injuries to players.”

Spectators can win Rs. 5,000 by predicting the match winner and the winner of the Euro Cup. The Club’s secretary Shaik Ismail said that Kerala is the preferred destination for many tourists because of the vast variety of innovative tourism products. “Goan tourism is heavily dependant on its beaches.” Perhaps, shooting goals in the rain will provide further fillip to monsoon tourism.

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