Kerala is a first choice for global tourists

Kerala is a first choice for global tourists

Kerala Travel Mart (KTM-2022) which was held on 5th – 8th May in Cochin, received tremendous response from international as well domestic buyers and sellers. It is considered the biggest tourism event.

Words by Suman Bajpai

KTM-2022 was attended by delegates from 69 countries and has buyers from 25 states within the country. A flagship trade exhibition gives an opportunity to explore travel trends for sellers and buyers. Last year, the KTM had organized a virtual summit in March, facilitating more than 7,000 business meets that enabled the travel industry to take major strides in overcoming the COVID-triggered economic crisis. The online event saw a virtual buyers’ meet with participants from across the world.

Ethical tourism is set to define post-Covid travel, necessitating all stakeholders to provide customised visitor services that sustain nature and support local communities, speakers at Kerala Travel Mart (KTM-2022) said.

More like a cultural experience

Ethical tourism is set to define post-Covid travel, necessitating all stakeholders to provide customised visitor services that sustain nature and support local communities, speakers at Kerala Travel Mart (KTM-2022) feel.
The enthusiasm shown by everyone present at the venue at the Willingdon Island Sagara and Samudrika convention centres reflected that Kerala has emerged as the first choice of global tourists amid a COVID-19 slide, as travellers from across continents find the southern Indian state rich and alluring as a cultural experience.

CEO of Kerala Mart society Mr Shine KS said about this exhibition: “KTM society is formed for the investors of Kerala. This is a PPP model that is a private-public partnership model and we are working hand to hand with the Government of Kerala to promote this. I can say that this model is a successful model for the last 20 years. This time the 11th edition of KTM is happening here after 4 years. The last time it happened was in 2018. After that first B 2 B event is happening in Cocchi. This is an effort to keep sustainability and revival of the tourism industry which is happening through the KTM. It would definitely build up confidence lost during covid times. We are getting tremendous responses from the sellers and buyers. We are hoping that things will smoothen and with  new avenues, the tourism industry will grow post covid.”

Enquiries about Kerala top among all the destinations about which they have been received ever since the pandemic started tapering off, reveal the foreign travel agency delegates, who are among the international buyers at the four-day KTM-2022.

An attractive destination for foreign tourists

Mr Zsolt Jurak, who is the owner of World Travel Master KFT in Hungary, said Kerala is “one of the best parts in the whole of India” because of its traditional values, Ayurveda wellness, tasty food and warm people. “I am glad to see that the event is back after the pandemic and people can travel freely in the state,” gushed Mr Jurak, who has been to Kerala “several times earlier” as a tourist.

“At the KTM-2022, I am specifically looking for new possibilities and places, alongside certain unique and extraordinary things,” he added at the venue of the event being organised by the KTM Society.

Ms Eunsook Park, an official of Withus Tour in South Korea, said her compatriots, who are generally interested in pilgrimage, are keen to visit the churches of Kochi.

“Normally, Koreans are interested in pilgrimage programmes and such tour packages. They choose Kerala and Chennai for pilgrimage packages, especially the Catholic pilgrimage package to visit Kochi,” she pointed out.

“Its natural beauty makes Kerala an apt place to relax,” adds Ms Park, who has been particularly busy with promoting the state’s latest travel products such as caravan tourism.

According to Ms Alexandra Nazimek, owner of Planet Escape, Poland, the serenity of Kerala’s tourist destinations gets enhanced by their cultural ambience, making the state especially attractive for foreign tourists.

“Tourists from all around the globe, especially from Europe, prefer Kerala as their favourite destination. There are still more places for tourists to explore here and experience,” she added.

Berlin-based social anthropologist Rika Jean Francois said tourism should no longer be measured by gross revenues, but by its impact on local people. “We must stop cultural erosion. Communities should be involved in much stronger ways. Destination management is far more important than destination marketing,” she said.

Need of the hour

Dr Venu V., Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala, said travel operators must equip themselves to address the “anxious traveller”, who needs reassurance as life is limping back to normalcy after the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Trips will become increasingly personalised; people will travel in small groups to relatively smaller destinations. So the information provided to them should be authentic. Responsible tourism, which strives for sustainable nature and a stronger role of local communities, will gain vitality,” said the senior bureaucrat, who earlier served as Additional Chief Secretary, Kerala Tourism.
Berlin-based social anthropologist Rika Jean Francois said tourism should no longer be measured by gross revenues, but by its impact on local people. “We must stop cultural erosion. Communities should be involved in much stronger ways. Destination management is far more important than destination marketing,” she said.

Need to curate experiences

Delhi-based Amit Sharma, who heads A&K Luxury Travel, said the travel industry was moving from being part of the service economy to an experiential economy. “We have to curate experiences and cater to customised services in the changed travel equations after Covid-19,” he said.
“I’m focusing on the western market. My objectives in the KTM-2022 are to find out suppliers like hoteliers, houseboats, homestays and tour operators from Kerala, who can offer products that suit my requirement,” he explained.

Want to create new packages

As his country is caught in the vortex of a deep economic and political turmoil, a Sri Lankan tour operator says he is seriously thinking of staying in business by promoting Kerala as an ideal destination for stress management programmes of western corporate institutions.
Tourism in Sri Lanka, the main source of income for the nation, still keeps going despite the current crisis, he pointed out. “Tourism industry suffers from delay in transport, fuel shortage and power cuts. But tourists are still coming to the country, though not in large numbers.”
Mr Thangavelu, who is attending the KTM for the first time, said tourists coming to Sri Lanka are also keen to visit Kerala as both places share similarities in their landscapes and beaches.
“This is my second visit to Kerala. Impressed by my Kerala narratives, my Slovakian friend has also come to KTM-2022 to explore Ayurvedic tours,” he added.
Another tour operator, Mr Asaduzzaman Khan, who is the owner of Dhaka-based Icon Travel and Tours, said people of Bangladesh are now also showing interest in exploring the southern parts of India, especially Kerala.
“Post-COVID-19, people are eager to travel. This is my first visit to Kerala and I would like to introduce Kerala’s tourism potential to Bangladesh,” said Mr Khan, who is planning to travel across Kerala, starting his trip from Kannur.
Hailing from Colombo, Mr Krishnagoby Thangavelu, Chief Business Officer, Overseas Voyages Private Limited, a B2B venture, revealed his mind while attending the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM).
Mr Thangavelu said he is planning to come up with a new package by highlighting Kerala’s Ayurveda along with other products for the stress management programmes of corporates from Spanish-speaking and Scandinavian countries.

Attract visitors all over the world

Ranging from riveting adventure tourism activities to heritage-preserving and community-centric Responsible Tourism (RT), Kerala’s tourism has immense potential to create a lasting impact on visitors from across the globe, say experts.
Participating in a seminar on “Potential Areas of Tourism in Kerala” at the ongoing 11th edition of Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) at Willingdon Island here on Saturday, the speakers said going by its diverse attractions the state can attract visitors from any part of the world to experience them.
Shri Pradeep Murthy, Founder, Muddy Boots Vacations & Treasurer, Adventure Tour Operators Association of India, said the abundance of wildlife and amazing waterscapes in the state have to be utilised properly for conducting outdoor activities.

Shri Murthy said, “Kerala offers a lot of scope in this sector. Now visitors can try out themselves in various adventure tourism products including water-based activities such as surfing, paragliding, canoeing, rafting and parasailing and other activities like trekking, and ziplining.

Changing trends in travel

Long-haul travel will not be the norm in the next three years, when most tourists will be keen on domestic trips on an unprecedented scale, according to the session on ‘Changing Trends in Travel’ at the four-day event being organised by KTM Society.
Dr Venu V., Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala, said travel operators must equip themselves to address the “anxious traveller”, who needs reassurance as life is limping back to normalcy after the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Trips will become increasingly personalised; people will travel in small groups to relatively smaller destinations. So the information provided to them should be authentic. Responsible tourism, which strives for sustainable nature and a stronger role of local communities, will gain vitality,” said the senior bureaucrat, who earlier served as Additional Chief Secretary, Kerala Tourism.

Long-haul travel will not be the norm in the next three years, when most tourists will be keen on domestic trips on an unprecedented scale, according to the session on ‘Changing Trends in Travel’ at the four-day event being organised by KTM Society.

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