BEIJING: As India's e-visa scheme for Chinese tourists is set to get implemented, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have made a strong pitch to woo travellers from China with lucrative packages and their age-old spice, martial arts links besides natural beauty steeped in local culture.
With its well laid out publicity network, Kerala made a big show at a special evening for Chinese media and travel writers here by organising a fusion performance combining its ancient martial art 'Kalaripayattu' with China's Shaolin temple, whose early roots stretches to the South Indian state.
Six performers of 'Kalaripayattu' joined hands with Shaolin experts highlighting similarities between two traditional art forms at a glittery get-together organised by the Indian Embassy here.
K Sunilkumar Gurukkal, who featured in movies along with Hollywood's Kung Fu star Jackie Chan, headed 'Kalaripayattu' team. Kathakali dance form was also displayed.
Kerala's Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar is heading a delegation to China that includes state Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson and Tourism Secretary G Kamala Vardhana Rao.
Anilkumar said the fusion of 'Kalaripayattu' and Shaolin showed that Kerala and China have a lot in common, reminding the Chinese the adventure travels undertaken by China's marine adventure traveller Zheng He to Kerala few hundred years ago.
The state still has China's imprints like the Chinese fishing nets dotting the coast line of Kochi, a major landmark for tourists.
Though Kerala attracted over a million foreign tourists last year, Chinese accounted for little over 4,000, he said.
India is also holding "Visit India Year" campaign all over China to attract Chinese tourists whose numbers to India were less than two lakh last year. Last year's Chinese tourists numbers visiting abroad touched about 100 million spending over USD 128 billion.
Boosted by Chinese government push, its tourists travelled mostly in the Indian subcontinent to Nepal (1.4 lakh), Maldives (4 lakhs) and Sri Lanka (1.3 lakh) last year.
Chinese travel analysts advised Kerala to coordinate with the Sri Lanka tourism to work out joint tours as the island's airline has a number of flights from different Chinese cities and the flight time between Lanka and Kerala is just an hour.
Kerala also could become a new centre for Chinese film shooting as some of the Chinese film personalities are visiting several locations of the state.
State-run Chinese TV has already done four part series on Kerala highlighting its tourism potential for Chinese. The new joint venture film by Chinese and Indian firms called "Wrecking havoc in India", a comedy could be shot in Kerala, said Prasad Shetty, partner of Strategic Alliance a Chinese firm promoting Indian films.
Andhra Pradesh, which has caught the eye of Chinese investors after the April visit of its Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, is also making an effort to attract Chinese tourists showcasing its facilities like the 974-km-long coastline of Visakhapatnam as well as Buddhist centres like Amaravathi which too had ancient links with China.
Thanks to popular religious cites like Tirupathi, the state is attracting about 100 million domestic and NRI tourists but the effort now is to aim for more international tourists, said Neerabh K Prasad, the state's Principle Secretary to Tourism and Culture.
According to Chinese Ambassador to India Le Yucheng, Andhra Pradesh is becoming a centre for Chinese investments, specially the Kakinada Port.