KTM 2018 marks post-flood revival for Kerala Tourism

KTM 2018 marks post-flood revival for Kerala Tourism

A group of Norwegian tourists on a backwater trip in Kerala

Kerala's tourism industry appears to have taken assured steps forward as it tries to recover from the devastating floods in August, if the just-concluded Kerala Travel Mart 2018 is an indication.

The floods had ravaged 12 of the state's 14 districts, severely damaging its tourism infrastructure. In effect, Kerala Tourism was staring at a loss of Rs 1,000 crore.

The sector contributed Rs 33,000 crore in 2017, accounting for 10% of the state's GDP and a little over 23 % of its total employment. Numbers emerging from KTM 2018, held from September 27 to 30 in Kochi, validate Kerala’s preparedness to receive visitors in the October-March tourist season.

The 2018 edition of the biennial event, featuring tourism sector stakeholders from across the world, tells a different story — 35,000 business meets involving 1,635 buyers shortlisted from 7,000 applicants (545 of them from 66 foreign countries — the highest in KTM so far), 325 sellers in 400-odd stalls and the highest number of foreign buyers from US and the UK.

Kerala Tourism Secretary Rani George called the response "historic", coming after the worst natural calamity in Kerala’s history.

Kerala Tourism Director P Bala Kiran said it proved that KTM was not a celebratory event, but a business meet. The event, inaugurated by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, built confidence among tourists and other industry stakeholders and made a "perceptional change" about post-floods Kerala, an official statement said.

Plans were announced to reinvent responsible tourism, update customised packages and spruce up heritage spots.

Charting a new course in cruise tourism, the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation is set to launch by this month-end an Egypt-themed luxury vessel called Nefertiti.

The Chaliyar River Challenge 2018 (a 68-km kayaking championship), the recent installation of a giant sculpture of the bird Jatayu, mentioned in the Ramayana, and the Muziris Project are set to woo tourists, the statement said.

The Responsible Tourism–related schemes currently provide jobs to 30,000 families, while 7,800 of them are direct beneficiaries.

"A survey will be conducted seeking the possibility of offering job opportunities through tourism for people in the state's flood-hit areas," Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said.

The government has earmarked Rs 700 crore for the tourism sector under the Nava Kerala reconstruction activities and proposes to increase tourism’s share to 20% of the GDP by 2020.