Kadakampally Surendran, minister for co-operation, tourism and devaswom, Government of Kerala, spoke to Steena Joy about the new RT initiavtives and the future roadmap for Kerala Tourism
What are Kerala Tourism’s new Responsible Tourism initiatives?
The Tourism Department of Kerala has been committed to the concept of ‘Responsible Tourism’ wherein the local community is benefited by tourism with the sustained effort on environment conservation. Focusing on minimising negative environmental and social impacts, the Responsible Tourism initiative has involved almost all forms of tourism. This initiative has helped in improving the standard of life of the regional population. Kerala Tourism has implemented the first phase of ‘PEPPER’ (People’s Participation for Planning and Empowerment through Responsible Tourism) project at Vaikom in order to promote unexplored destinations. Further, the Tourism Department would implement the project in other pristine destinations in phases. Under the project, unexplored and pristine spots will be identified and committees will decide about their maintenance without spoiling their tranquility.
Kerala Tourism has also recently launched ‘Jalayanam’ project under RT Mission with the aim of boosting ‘Water Tourism’ in Kadalundi and Olavanna grama panchayats of Kozhikode district. Aimed at developing farm and aquatic tourism initiatives, the initiative will promote rural entrepreneurs and develop the villages as tourism destinations.
Which are the new destinations being promoted?
We have been extensively focusing on promoting Northern Kerala, which has untapped tourism potential. Kerala Tourism has also planned to promote the Malabar region- Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kasaragod and Kannur, aggressively through a INR 325 crore project.
Owing to the immense tourism potential of Kerala to attract adventure enthusiasts, the tourism department has been actively promoting adventure tourism across the state. The aim is to re-brand the state as the ‘Land of Adventure’ in order to entice international travellers to the state. In this segment, the latest development is ‘Adventure Rock Hill’ at the Jatayu Earth Centre, which is now operational for public in groups. Located at Chadayamangalam in Kollam district of Kerala, the Jatayu Earth Centre will be fully operational soon. Currently, Adventure Rock Hill is open for a group of 10-100 people. The attractive tour package for visiting the centre includes 15 challenging adventure activities. It has a separate adventure zone, which provides over 20 different games such as paintball, archery, laser tag, rifle shooting, rock climbing and rappelling for the tourists. From adventure enthusiasts to families, young generation of travellers to couples, this tourist spot caters to a wide audience.
What are the new branding campaigns being planned?
The Tourism Department has recently kickstarted the fifth edition of Kerala Blog Express, aimed at promoting the destination and niche tourism products of the state through bloggers. Kerala Blog Express facilitates the ‘Trip of a Lifetime’ wherein the bloggers from countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, Venezuela and Peru participate with great enthusiasm.
The fifth edition has been chalked out by combining various aspects, including campaign on social media, familiarisation trip, bloggers’ meet and road trip. Utilising social media is the easiest way to reach out to holidayers and added emphasis has been given to it in the new campaign being embarked upon by Kerala Tourism.
The experience of the journey will be documented by the bloggers and shared with all the aspiring travellers around the world. Bloggers will continue with their journey across various places in the state documenting the entire journey covering hills, beaches, backwaters, villages and city life experiences. The bloggers will be sharing photos, videos and articles reflecting the culture, tradition and lifestyle of Kerala and its natural beauty.
While focusing on leisure, backwaters and Ayurveda, new products will be coming up to promote adventure, MICE and cruise tourism across the globe. Considering the scope of social media, we will continue to utilise the digital platforms to promote the rich cultural heritage of the state. Additionally, the tourism department will chalk out the promotional campaign for the coming fiscal for international and domestic markets.
Your plans on Kerala as an adventure tourism destination?
Kerala offers a wide range of adventure activities, including trekking, paragliding, river rafting, kayaking, wildlife sanctuaries and numerous more. The Tourism Department has been actively working towards developing several action and water-based activities for the adventure enthusiasts. Our aim is to re-brand the state as ‘Land of Adventure’ to attract foreign tourists to the state.
Impact of the withdrawal of the liquor ban on MICE tourism in the state?
Kerala Tourism has plans to launch a global awareness campaign to promote MICE tourism following the withdrawal of the liquor ban. MICE tourism has opened up infinite possibilities for tourism in the state. After the policy reversal, the Tourism Department is optimistic about increasing the number of tourist arrivals to the state. We believe that MICE tourism has huge potential to accelerate the growth of the tourism sector. About 14.5 million tourists visited Kerala in 2017, up from 13.1 million in 2016 and the highest in nine years.