THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In an unprecedented trend, the arrival of foreign tourists to the state recorded negative growth rate in August and September 2017 when compared to the same period in the previous year.
According to figures accessed from the state Tourism Department, August recorded a dip of nine per cent in tourist arrivals and September saw the arrivals plummet to -12.62 per cent. However, the overall rate of foreign tourist arrivals from January 2017 to September 2017 rose by 4.23 per cent when compared to the same period last year.
If the domestic tourism sector is taken into account, the rate of tourist arrivals dipped to single digit figures in August and September 2017 when compared to the same period in the previous year. The rate of growth in domestic tourist arrivals stood at 9.12 per cent and 5.29 per cent in August and September respectively bringing down the overall rate to 11.03 per cent.
‘GST the villain?’
According to Kerala Travel Mart Association president Abraham George, the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) has made tourism products in Kerala costlier by 14 per cent forcing foreign tourists to go for a re-think on their Kerala holiday plans.
“The tax rate for hotels was only 19 per cent prior to the implementation of the GST. After the GST implementation, the tax on hotels went up to 28 per cent. If the tax on tour operators is also taken into account, the overall tax rate comes up to 33 per cent. This, at a time when competitive markets like Sri Lanka are levying only very low tax in the tourism sector,” George said.
Confederation of Tourism Industry Kerala president E M Najeeb believes the drop in tourist arrival figures were indicative of how the Meetings, Incentives,Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) sector is yet to revive from the slump over the previous years. Also, infrastructure and waste management issues need to be sorted out if the state has to attract more foreign tourists, he said.
‘Figures may improve’
Meanwhile, the Tourism Department is hopeful that the tourist arrival numbers would not be ‘so alarming’ once the final figures for 2017 are available in a month’s time.“Once the statistics for October to December are available, we expect the overall tourist arrival figures in the state to improve,” said Tourism Director P Bala Kiran. He said the state’s aggressive marketing initiatives in foreign countries would soon show results and improve tourist arrivals.