THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It was when the nation remained glued to the electronic media, eagerly watching the verdict of the Karnataka Assembly election unfurl, that the Kerala Tourism came up with a tongue-in-cheek tweet inviting that state's MLAs to come and unwind in the God's Own Country. Impressive and impactful, it took social media by storm.
The tweet, which Tourism Minister Kadkampally Surendran described as "less investment but maximum return", was exactly what the Kerala Tourism wanted as it looks for a major image makeover. It includes changing the Tourism police's colour, and countering the anti-Kerala campaigns in Europe as well as other foreign countries, after the Latvian national's murder in Kovalam and torturing of animals, especially elephants, left a blot on the state's image.
Kerala Tourism Director P Bala Kiran told Express the liquor ban, nokkukooli issues, frequent hartals and strikes had been taking a major toll on the state's tourism prospects. With the government taking some vital decisions like exempting tourism sector from hartals and curbing nokkukooli, the tourism department now looks to counter the anti-Kerala campaigns abroad by animal right activists as well as promote the state as a major destination across the world.
The department has envisioned a target of 100 and 50 per cent increase in arrival of foreign and domestic tourists respectively in the next five years. To achieve it, the state has to do a lot more in terms of capacity building and instilling a fresh hope in the sector's stakeholders.
“Recruiting more women into tourism police, changing the uniform colour of the force, forming new destination committees at all destinations with representatives from the Home and Tourism departments, local self government institutions and tourism industry, and introducing surveillance cameras at major spots are some of the decisions aimed at bringing a change in the sector. The big-ticket change on cards is the formation of Tourism Regulatory Authority of Kerala (TRAK),” he said.
The draft for it has been prepared and would be placed for the Cabinet ratification in the coming Assembly session, said Kadkampally. The TRAK will have the statutory power to act against all forms of exploitation and violation of rules in the industry. The body will have staff with legal powers to respond to complaints, and illegal practices and exploitation, said a Tourism Department officer.
Besides, the Responsible Tourism Mission, which has been entrusted with the task of carrying out safety study at around 120 tourist destinations, will submit its report by July, and safety and security measures will be enhanced based on it.
Moreover, the department is planning to counter the anti-Kerala campaign in foreign countries by releasing videos on social media platforms by depicting the healthy treatment of its jumbos, and showing the tradition and culture behind the mighty festivals in Kerala, said Balakiran.
TOURIST FOOTFALL IN KERALA
|1.42 crore||1.57 crore|
(10.94 pc increase)
|1.31 crore||1.46 crore|
(11.39 pc increase)
|10.38 lakh||10.91 lakh|
(5.15 per cent increase)