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Prospects good for Kerala tourism

The State is expecting the best-ever tourist season this time around with all factors in its favour, says Principal Secretary, Tourism, E.K. Bharat Bhushan, in an interaction with S. Anil Radhakrishnan

E.K. Bharat Bhushan

Kerala tourism and the stakeholders of the hospitality industry are gearing up for another tourism season. The State is expecting the best-ever tourist season this time around with all factors in its favour, says Principal Secretary, Tourism, E.K. Bharat Bhushan.

"We see good prospects for the tourism season that gets officially kicked-off next month. The inputs from the hospitality industry and the response to the destination and the various unique tourism products in the international travel fairs and mart are encouraging," Mr. Bhushan said while speaking on the eve of the World Tourism Day.

Already, two chartered flights from Russia with high-spending tourists have confirmed their arrival to Thiruvananthapuram international airport this season. The arrival of Russian chartered flights with 300-plus capacity will be a big boost.

While taking steps to retain the foothold gained in the global tourism scenario, Kerala tourism is trying to woo tourists from new markets. The aggressive marketing of the destination and the tourism products of the State such as backwaters, hill stations, medical tourism and ayurveda in Russia have started yielding results.

Mr. Bhushan says the number of luxury cruise liners coming to the State is also expected to go up this year. The department has made it a point to attend all trade fairs and marts. ITB Berlin, scheduled for March, will have a separate pavilion for Kerala, which includes a "nalukettu".

The cleaning up of the beach resort of Kovalam is progressing. A meeting of stakeholders of the industry will be convened in the capital and Kochi soon.

The proposed Bill to safeguard ayurveda traditions and treatment practices and to end the fleecing of foreign tourists in the name of rejuvenation therapy will be piloted in the next session of the Assembly.

The special tourism zones of Munnar, Kumarakom, Fort Kochi and Kovalam will be notified soon. Steps have already been taken to end the fleecing of tourists hiring houseboats.

Mr. Bhushan, who is also the Principal Secretary, General Administration, Culture and Devaswom, says Kerala tourism has been made the nodal agency for three major projects being taken up under the ongoing Capital City Region Development Programme.

The International Convention Centre at Aakkulam is to be taken up as a joint venture; the de-silting of the Parvathy Puthanar at a cost of Rs.4.99 crores and that of the Veli-Akkulam lake at a cost of Rs. 24.75 crores with Central assistance.

"Major groups have evinced interest for the convention centre project. The Veli-Akkulam lake will have a sewerage plant and the first instalment of the assistance has been transferred," he said.

A native of Kozhikode, Mr. Bhushan, a 1979 batch IAS official, holds a Master of Public Administration Degree from Harvard University. He has held several key posts in the Union Government and State Government before taking up the new assignment.

The theme of this year's World Tourism Day is "Travel and Transport: From the Imagination of Jules Verne to the Reality of the 21st Century". Mr. Bhushan says good roads play a key role in the tourism industry. The proposed Bekal project and the airport at Kannur will change the face of the Malabar region and attract more tourists to the North. "The Government has got the updated report of the proposed airport. The pattern of funding and ownership will be decided at a meeting convened by the Chief Minister on October 15," he added. The high sales tax on aviation turbine fuel, high airfare from Mumbai and Delhi to the State and the reluctance of airlines to fly to the three cities are the main hitches that have to be sorted out to attract more tourists.

"We are putting pressure on various airlines," he adds.

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