Kerala to focus on destination weddings and caravan tourism.
Tourism leaders of today are torn between the urge to act and the need for prudence. Very few tourism boards in India are able to overcome their reticence and reorient themselves for the future. A case in point is Kerala Tourism. Pandemic or not, the state has always been on the radar for travellers, both domestic and international. The state has made good use of its time and resources to unveil a slew of initiatives last quarter.
In an interaction with TravelDine, PA Mohamed Riyas, Minister for Tourism & Public Works, talks about the state’s tremendous resilience and the best practices adopted to make Kerala the world’s most sought-after destination.
“Tourism in Kerala bounced back with greater vigour from every past crisis. The same is the case with Covid-19 pandemic that dealt a grim blow to the sector. Our core assets are still strong and intact. Refusing to lose heart, we saw it as an opportunity to formulate fresh strategies and practices to take this critically important sector ahead. Now, it is great to see that the projects we conceived are fructifying fast,” he says.
Kerala recently unveiled the Caravan Tourism policy—Keravan Kerala— that elicited encouraging response across the country. Industry insiders say that this policy has been the most tourist-friendly and stakeholder-friendly declared by any state.
“Our caravan tourism initiative seeks to take the benefits to local communities. I am sure the project will result in significant changes in the socio-economic status of people as it will foster mutually beneficial relationships between tourism development and the wellbeing of the local community,” the minister says.
The caravan parks, in due course, will become cultural hubs.
“By culture, we do not mean performing arts alone. It is a comprehensive concept that covers a wide range of tangible and intangible heritage that needs to be preserved and carried forward to bring economic benefits to the people,” he says.
Beyond beaches and backwaters
The minister added that 2022 will focus on experiential travel and destination weddings.
“Our focus will no longer be confined to beaches, backwaters and hill stations. We want to transform the whole of Kerala into an interconnected tourist haven so visitors get diverse choices within a few days they spend in the state,” the minister says.
He added that destination weddings will be a great draw in the short term.
“Making Kerala a preferred destination for weddings, particularly from the domestic sector, will be a key area of focus,” he says.
In November, Kerala Tourism launched the ‘STREET’ project in seven districts. The STREET is an acronym for Sustainable, Tangible, Responsible, Experiential, Ethnic, Tourism hubs. This project envisages taking tourism deep into Kerala’s interiors and rural hinterland, enabling visitors to experience the diversity of the state’s lesser-known locales.
In the first phase, the project will be implemented in Kadalundi in Kozhikode, Thrithala and Pattithara in Palakkad, Pinarayi and Ancharakkandi in Kannur, Maravanthuruthu and Manchira in Kottayam, Valiyaparamba in Kasaragod, Kanthalloor in Idukki and Chekadi in Wayanad.
The minister added that 2022 will focus on capacity building based on principles of sustainability of existing destinations and ensuring better connectivity to these destinations.
“We will ensure that Kerala Tourism is ready to receive more tourists and give them a better experience while they are in Kerala. It will be a new Kerala Tourism built on the robust foundations of its picturesque locations and innovative products,” he says.
Riyas, who took charge as the state’s tourism minister last May, says that the pandemic has taught him valuable lessons.
“Prior to taking charge, I have only heard about tourism in Kerala and how it contributes to the state’s growth. However, it was after taking charge that I fully understand how tourism and its allied activities contribute to the development of the state and its people. It is humbling for me to be in a position to understand the suffering of the stakeholders. From that humility arises the feeling of immense responsibility of needing to do a lot more to alleviate that suffering. That sense of responsibility is what is powering all our new initiatives and projects,” says Minister Riyas.