Despite apprehensions regarding an unavoidable hartal (strike) on Wednesday called by the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Thiruvananthapuram, a city in Kerala, the Chief Minister of the south Indian state, Pinarayi Vijayan promises to ensure minimal disruption to tourism activities.
At the inauguration of the 9th Kerala Travel Mart (KTM), the Chief Minister responded to KTM Society President, Abraham George’s request for tourism-friendly policies with regards to hartals and excise regulations. In his welcome address at the Le Meridien Convention Centre in Cochin, the CM pointed out the significance of impression and image of the state perceived by visitors, as the tourist season in Kerala approaches.
KTM is a great example of public-private partnership, points out Vijayan and adds that it is a matter of pride that an initiative started in Kerala by the government is deemed as the best of its type in the country. He made special mention about the state’s award-winning ‘Responsible Tourism’ initiatives and the Muziris and Spice Route projects – two important sectors for Kerala’s tourism industry and the themes for KTM 2016.
“Our industry is dominated by small business owners who have successfully presented the different products and experiences of Kerala before the world and KTM brings under one roof almost all tourism stakeholders in the state,” said Vijayan in his introductory speech.
“The main aim of KTM is to help the tourism sector raise earnings by about INR 50 billion (USD 755 million approx.) in the coming five years. In this respect, it is encouraging to hear that the Mart is expected to witness around 25,000 business meetings between buyers and sellers. I hope that this Mart will enable buyers to make new relationships and partnerships, create new packages and bring more visitors to Kerala,” the CM added.
The ceremony was presided over by Kerala’s Minister for Tourism and Co-operation, A.C. Moideen, who thought that the Mart was important to distribute the benefits of tourism across the state. “Tourism can become a major catalyst for social change by providing opportunities for employment, preserving traditional ways of life and engaging with local communities,” Moideen said, expressing hope that KTM would open new avenues for success for both the state and its people.
Tourism remains one of the most important sectors for Kerala, accounting for 10 pc of the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and providing employment to 3 million people. The Principal Secretary (Tourism) Dr Venu V. said, “The Mart is seen as the spearhead for inclusive, accessible growth for tourism in the state as well as a showcase for the vibrancy of Kerala as a tourist destination.”
Kerala is looking to reap dividends from destination-friendly initiatives such as waste management as a crucial tourism enterprise. Moreover, to preserve Kerala’s reputation as the Ayurveda capital, the government is looking to employ only trained professionals understanding the reputation and the importance of the sector. The minister also revealed that the government is mooting proposals to bring out an Ayurveda training centre under its purview very soon.