The last two years have seen substantial growth in international tourist arrivals.

Sankar Radhakrishnan

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov. 10

OVER the past few years, foreign tourist arrivals in Kerala have grown from a little over 2 lakh in 2000 to 3.45 lakh last year. Encouraged by this performance, the State's tourism sector is set for what it hopes will be another successful season.

The season, up to March 2006, is looking good, said Mr B. Suman, Director, Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala. All arrangements required for the tourism season are in place, he added.

The last two years have seen substantial growth in international tourist arrivals. In 2004, for instance, international tourist arrivals in Kerala grew by 17.28 per cent, while the corresponding figure for 2003 was 26.68 per cent. This year too, Kerala Tourism anticipates some growth in the number of international tourist arrivals, Mr Suman said.

Domestic tourist arrivals too have grown over the past few years, rising from just over 50 lakh in 2000 to 59.72 lakh arrivals last year. Revenues from tourism in Kerala have also been increasing over the past few years. Figures published by Kerala Tourism show that foreign exchange receipts alone grew from Rs 535 crore in 2001 to Rs 1,266.77 crore in 2004.

The season itself really began last week, when the first charter flight of the season touched down in Thiruvananthapuram with over 200 visitors from the UK. Two charter flights with tourists from the UK are expected every week for the next few months, said Mr Suman. Similarly, some charter flights with tourists from Russia are also expected, he added.

However, Mr K.C. Chandrahasan, Managing Director, Kerala Travels, said that this tourism season in Kerala is not as "bullish as in earlier years". "It's a slow beginning," he added.

According to Mr Biswajit Chakraborty, General Manager, The Leela Kovalam, the season ahead looks encouraging with a good number of both international and domestic visitors expected. However, he said that hotels in Kerala are being undersold and should look at charging higher room rates.

Meanwhile, Kerala Tourism is working on plans to attract more visitors to the State during the traditional `off-season' that begins in April, Mr Suman said. The focus is on popularising the State with domestic tourists, especially those living in the Metros, and on positioning Kerala as a destination for the entire family. Kerala Tourism is also chalking out campaigns targeted at specific groups such as IT professionals, he added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 11, 2005)
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