KOCHI: Ernakulam has lost its pulling power as far as tourism is concerned with nature and global slowdown conspiring to keep many foreign tourists away.
The hospitality and the tourism sectors in the district are feeling the pinch and they do not see any immediate prospect of the revival of tourism due to other reasons too. The foreign tourists avoid a second visit as Kerala, unlike Singapore and Thailand, has nothing new to offer. There are no direct flights from
Europe or the US to Kochi and budget travellers do not find the local accommodation a pleasant experience either. The decline in overseas travellers was more or less made up by the rise in the number of domestic travellers to the district in the first half of the year. But the foreign travellers spend more and their vanishing act has hit hotels, shops and businesses, said industry sources.
The foreign tourist arrivals declined by 3.06 per cent in Ernakulam district from January to June this year compared to the same period in 2018, as per the Tourism Department data. As many as 2,56,904 foreign tourists came in the first half of the year compared to 2,65,019 in 2018, a decline of 8,115. The decline is steep as it was only 0.59 per cent in the state in the same period. While 6,08,360 foreign tourists visited
Kerala till June 2018, the number was 6,04,789 this year.
“The major decline happened in January and March. However, there was a steep increase in June. In the third quarter, we expect good growth with monsoon, Onam and snake boat races being promoted at the international level,” a tourism official said.
In total, 22,36,550 tourists visited the state in the first half of the current year compared to 19,79,259 in 2018. Ernakulam district recorded a substantial growth of 15.48 per cent in domestic tourism. In the first six months of the year, 19,79,646 domestic tourists visited the district compared to 17,14,210 in 2018. Across Kerala, the number of domestic tourists in the first six months increased by 11.68 per cent. “Foreign tourists yield more revenue from foreign exchange and spending. However, the Kerala tourism industry mostly thrives on domestic tourism. Nipah and flood can be a reason for the decline of foreign tourist arrivals to the district in recent times,” the official said.
Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) Kerala Chapter chairman Paulose Mathew said the troubled situation in Ernakulam will reflect in the tourism industry across the state. Kerala also fails to attract repeat travellers. “A foreign tourist hesitates to come again to the state as it offers nothing new while in countries like Singapore, destinations are upgraded and new facilities are added on a regular basis,” he said.
Similarly, there are no direct flights from Europe or the US to Kochi. “Reaching Kerala and residing in luxury hotels are expensive while countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives attract even budget travellers. So, only a policy change by the central and state governments can rejuvenate the tourism sector,” he said.