Kerala raises tour pitch

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The Kerala Travel Mart got off to a vibrant start here on Thursday as the seventh edition of the bi-annual event saw an increasing participation of over 2,000 delegates from across 48 countries.

“Kerala tourism is noted for responsible tourism which should benefit local communities along with stakeholders at destinations where tourism-related activities take place.

KTM is the only tourism event in the sub-continent and the largest gathering that brings together the members of the travel and tourism fraternity under one roof”, said chief minister Oommen Chandy in his inaugural message which was distributed at the event. He couldn’t personally attend the event as he was indisposed.

Organised by the Kerala Travel Mart Society in association with Kerala Tourism, the event this year saw 500 international buyers and 1,742 domestic buyers registering at the event which also saw a participation of 360 sellers from the state.

Tourism minister A.P. Anil Kumar highlighted the shift in the state’s tourism policy from a seasonal one to a round-the-year affair, by introducing novel schemes.

“This means the focus should be on adventure, culture and medical tourism, particularly ayurveda, which would encourage tourists to stay in the state for longer periods”, he said.

However, there was a note of caution about the factors that impede the sector.

“Lack of development of basic infrastructure like roads is a matter of concern. Another major problem is waste management.

Take for example, the case of Alappuzha, where tourists arrive in large groups to enjoy houseboat rides.

It used to be virgin waters, but now the stench is unbearable as we sail through the backwaters there. The third is, hartals and strikes that paralyse life in the state, causing untold misery to tourists”, said union minister K.V.Thomas.

He underlined the need for a concrete policy to be followed by successive governments to make use of the natural beauty that the state was gifted with. Minister K.M. Mani too urged people’s cooperation in matters like waste management.

After 50 visits, Hans still looking for quintessential Kerala

After visiting Kerala about 50 times, this German tour operator is still looking for the quintessential Kerala.

It’s not that Hans-Jorg Hussong has lost his fascination for the state, it’s just that he is a bit saddened by destinations getting crowded here.

Explains Hans, “What I am looking forward to is small pieces of property that are not disturbed by tourism overkill.” He had this conversation with DC on the sidelines of Kerala Travel Mart, the largest buyer-seller tourism mart in the country.

“Unfortunately, what we see in Kerala is crowding of popular spots. Why can’t the government limit the number of tourist properties in a destination,” he wondered. “What is happening is quantitative tourism, not qualitative.”

According to Hans, who is a journalist-turned-tour operator, an ideal destination is one which does not disturb the lifestyle of the people around it.

Hans visited Kerala for the first time in 1981 as a travel writer for a German daily. For the next 10 years, he visited India and Kerala many times as a scribe and decided to be a tour operator in 1991.

He started the firm ComIndia, with offices in Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram. He came up trumps with this successful venture and his company sends around 4,000 Germans to the state every year. According to estimates, 45,000 Germans visited the state last year.

Hans said rising pollution and poor waste management were threats to the state’s tourism. But he was of the view that Malabar, with Kozhikode as its hub, could make strides on the tourism map and could compensate for whatever the state was losing in Kovalam and Munnar.

According to him, Rajasthan is the topmost tourism destination in India and Kerala comes second.

“The government of Rajasthan is doing a lot to promote tourism and Kerala could perhaps take a leaf out of their book.”

Hans is a firm believer in tailor-made tourism packages and gives chartered tou-rism a firm thumbs down.

Operators chip in to clean Fort Kochi

Tired of depending on the authorities to keep the surroundings of Fort Kochi clean, tour operators and their employees have decided to take things into their own hands and launch a cleaning drive around it from October 2.

Mr George Scaria, president of the Tourism Professionals Club(TPC), a forum of owners and employees of tour operators in the state, says a volunteer team of the club will make sure the popular destination remains clean in future.

“This is not going to be a one-day job. We will monitor the maintenance of the area, including waste disposal, on a regular basis in future,” Mr Scaria told the Deccan Chronicle.

The club, which has a membership base of 280, decided to volunteer for the task after receiving complaints galore from foreign tourists about the filthy beaches and garbage littered roads around Fort Kochi.

“Besides installing waste bins, the volunteers will also educate the merchants against littering the roadsides,” Mr Scaria explained.

The District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) which has been allotted a mere Rs 1,20,000 for maintenance of the tourism spots in the district for the year, will provide the cleaning equipment.

Taking a cue from TPC, local groups like the Cherai Beach Hotels And Resorts Development Forum and the Kumbalangi Tourism Promotion Council too have decided to maintain the beaches in their respective areas.

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