KOCHI: Kerala is just incredible, indeed! That’s the buzz among international tour operators or ‘buyers’ at the ongoing Kerala Travel Mart here. And, the state has earned some new fans, too — from former USSR countries and the Balkan region. Some of the buyers from countries such as Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine were visiting the state for the first time. They, certainly, were enchanted.
Naclad Marius, from Romania, was one such tour operator smitten by Kerala. “I had heard and read a lot about the state and decided to take a look,” he said, adding that he would organise a marketing campaign to promote Kerala.
“Since we are a nation located in a mountainous area, the preference will, of course, be the beaches,” Naclad said. “However, visitors would also like to experience the culture, gastronomy and also the traditions of the state.”Naclad noted that Kerala’s hospitality sector was top-class. “From what I have seen and experienced, the facilities, people, destinations and the packaging are excellent,” he said. “I am looking for established tour management companies in the state. There are bloggers and vloggers offering their services but, when it comes to offering a very good experience, I need people who would take care of the tourists, right from landing to departure.”
Another eager buyer, Katarina Masri from Slovakia, said Kerala was a preferred destination for tourists from her country. “As restrictions were lifted, I brought in two groups from Slovakia in January and February,” said the tour operator, who had been checking out destinations in Kerala over the past two months. “Kerala is well-known back home for its wellness industry, especially ayurveda.” Adventure tourism was also popular among Slovakians, she added. “Wellness and adventure tourism go in a 50:50 ratio,” she said.
Meanwhile, the economic turmoil did not seem to affect travel prospects in the west, considering the large numbers of buyers from the UK (55) and the US (33) at the Kerala Travel Mart. Agreeing with the observation, UK tour operator Chloe Holcroft said, “After being locked up for two years, people have surplus cash with them. So, when the curbs were lifted, people started making enquiries,” she said, adding that most of those who approached her were honeymooners or people above the age of 55.
Slovakia - 4
Romania - 4
Lithuania - 3
Slovenia - 1
Russia - 23