KOCHI: Foraying into uncharted waters, Kerala Tourism for the first time participated in the International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) in Tel Aviv. Kerala Tourism is now eyeing the largely untapped Israeli market to substantially increase footfall from the Jewish state.
Tourism Director P Bala Kiran led the state delegation to the two-day IMTM 2019, the largest annual professional tourism fair in the Eastern Mediterranean region. More importantly, IMTM is the tourism sector’s official and only professional exhibition in Israel, the 25th edition of which concluded on Friday.
Sounding upbeat on Kerala Tourism’s IMTM debut, Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said it was an extremely successful outing for the state’s tourism sector.
“In the highly competitive global market, we need to scout for new source markets abroad to attract tourists. Our participation in a prestigious event like IMTM will propel us forward,” he said.According to Kadakampally, presently there is a direct flight from Tel Aviv to New Delhi and Mumbai. “A direct flight from Tel Aviv to Kochi will be launched by Arkia Israeli Airlines this September, which will be a major boost to tourism in India in general and Kerala in particular,” he said.
Tourism Secretary Rani George said Kerala’s participation in IMTM is part of the tourism department’s aggressive campaign to woo travellers from non-traditional markets. “We have already made a strong presence in GCC member-states like the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Forging strong ties with Israel’s tourism segment will open new vistas of expansion for Kerala Tourism in the West Asia region,” she said.
During the exhibition, Kerala Tourism launched a sleek and glossy coffee- table book, a first-of-its-kind visual odyssey of Jews who decided to make Kerala their home long before several members of the community chose to return to Israel. The book was formally launched by Pavan Kapoor, India’s Ambassador to Israel, who also visited the Kerala stall at the event.
In 2018, around 15,339 Israeli tourists visited the state, a 29 per cent year-on-year rise. Bala Kiran chose to hard sell Kochi as one of the oldest Jewish settlements on Asian soil, which had a much larger Jewish community than New York and surpassed it not only numerically, but also culturally. The Cochin Jewish community in 1792 had about 2,000 Jews and nine synagogues of considerable antiquity while New York had only 72 Jewish families and only one synagogue.
The book, ‘One Heart, Two Worlds - The Story of The Jews of Kochi’, brings alive the riveting real-life account of the Jewish community in Kochi.“With less than 30 Jews remaining in Cochin today, the need to document the Jewish diaspora, who coexisted peacefully in the socio-cultural fabric here and were welcomed by the Rajas, acquires an immediacy and timeliness. This is what the book ensures,” he said.