Powered by more tourists and higher spends from traditional source markets, Kerala’s unprecedented revenue from tourism in 2018 is a remarkable accomplishment.
Kerala tourism confronted incredible odds in 2018. It was a year of Nipah virus outbreaks, devastating floods, and Sabrimala strife. Travel advisories were issues and a spate of itinerary cancellations followed as Nipah virus outbreaks were reported. As the state administration battled to contain the damage, floods in August further brought tourism to a grinding halt, impacting infrastructure which will require a long-term rehabilitation to recover from the tragedy. Despite these setbacks, Kerala Tourism has recorded an unprecedented revenue of INR 36,528.01 crore (over five billion USD) from tourism in 2018. It is an increase of INR 2,874.33 crore (approx. 400 million USD). Revenue aside, tourist footfalls have grown too. The state registered a 5.93 per cent growth from the previous year, accounting for a total of 16.7 million tourists, government figures suggest.
E M Najeeb, Senior Vice President, IATO, attributed the growth to a packed business season, post the flood fiasco, notably November and December. “We did very well in April and May as well. The business was down for a couple of months, but we recovered well,” he said in an exclusive interaction. Decoding the reasons behind the stellar performance, he noted that niche segments such as destination weddings and MICE segment had boosted business across the state. “Our efforts to shore up the infrastructure for meetings and conferences has given good results. Several international and national conferences of all sizes are regularly being hosted in Cochin and other cities,” he said, adding that the state had especially been attracting numerous medical conferences.
Core source markets had largely remained the same, we were told. The United Kingdom accounted for most number of tourists, for the first time crossing the 2,00,000 mark. The United States, France and Germany were other key markets. “We have received more tourists and tourist spending from our traditional source markets,” he informed. On the question of inculcating new and potential markets, he mentioned that state tourism stakeholders had undertaken a concerted outreach through roadshows and other such initiatives in the Eastern European and Middle-eastern markets. “These efforts are also showing the result in terms of improved footfalls from those regions,” he added.
What is interesting is that the juggernaut rolls on in the first months of 2019. Najeeb too called the first months of 2019 as “very good” and shared that March was expected to remain “very busy” as well. Looking at what worked for Kerala, the state tourism department credited “the campaign mounted through the media”, including social media platforms, for playing a crucial role in the upward swing. While there is no denying that social media is a critical means of outreach and opinion building in the internet age, but credit must also be given to local stakeholders who worked on a war-footing to resume tourism activities at the earliest, restoring normalcy in the state. With a steady start in 2019, it is likely that tourism numbers will only improve this year. A thriving Kerala works well for India’s tourism.