The second edition of the virtual Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) has begun with State Tourism Minister PA Mohamed Riyas highlighting the government’s steps to strengthen investments in infrastructure development, capacity building and marketing for the growth of the travel and hospitality industry.

The Tourism Department will intensify its marketing activities to further capitalise on the momentum created in the post-pandemic phase so as to enhance the footfall of both domestic and foreign visitors in the upcoming tourism season, he said on Tuesday while inaugurating the four-day event of KTM Society, the State’s tourism apex forum.

Emphasising the need to embrace innovation and technology to enhance the visitor experience showcasing the State’s unique offerings, the Minister said the growth of travel industry must benefit local communities and environment while enhancing the tourist ecosystem. With focus on responsible tourism, the government will ramp up efforts to market Kerala as a travel destination at the global level.

Finance Minister KN Balagopal pledged the government’s continued support to the private sector in the travel industry. “We wholeheartedly support potential investors amid hopes of more capital-intensive investments,” he said.

The four days of deliberations at the event will give equal opportunities to those running homestays as well as star hotels, Balagopal said, expressing the hope that the virtual KTM will see innovative ideas and commercial pacts. “Kerala’s clean environment and variety of natural scenery are specialties that woo international tourists,” he added.

Industries Minister P Rajeeve said ‘Emerging Kerala’ event held by the government in 2012 initiated the process of transforming the State into a preferred investment destination. “Kerala has a huge social capital which is now paying rich dividends in terms of a highly qualified and skilled workforce,” he said

Noting that Kerala’s sustainable model of inclusive growth is being adopted world-wide, Rajeeve said the State has been fast transforming itself into a knowledge-based society and economy.

“We have been among the country’s top five States on social development and sustainability indicators,” he added, noting that a new governmental focus has ensured that entrepreneurial innovations address social problems and promote cultural activities.

The Minister recalled that the State’s programmes to promote investments has improved its ranking from the 21st position to 15th position on the all-India Ease of Doing Business Ranking in 2021.

Revealing that the State is poised to get three new private industrial parks (in addition to the current eight such parks), he reeled out a list of benefits intended from the Kerala Industrial Policy 2023 that has identified ‘Tourism and Hospitality’ as one of the 22 priority sectors. With ‘Made in Kerala’ getting priority, the deliberations at the KTM virtual meet will get a fresh push, he added.

Kerala Tourism Principal Secretary KS Srinivas said KTM has become one of the country’s successful examples of private-public partnership. “Over the past two decades, KTM has become one of the largest tourism buyer-seller events,” he said. “It has been successful in bringing travel agents, tour operators and media from all over the globe to familiarise themselves with tourism operations in Kerala.”

“As the world has become busier after the Covid-19 pandemic, this kind of a meet has become the need of the hour,” Kerala Tourism Director PB Nooh said.

KTM President Baby Mathew Somatheeram said that 120 foreign buyers and 395 domestic buyers have registered for the meet. Through state-of-the-art software, they will hold virtual one-on-ones with 245 investors.