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Hopes soar in Kerala as Centre plans wooing foreign tourists with sops

According to the data compiled by the state tourism department, the first six months of the current year saw just 15,000 foreign persons, who came mostly for business and treatment purposes.

Published: 20th September 2021 01:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th September 2021 06:05 AM   |  A+A-

Munnar Hill Station

Munnar Hill Station in Kerala (File photo | Express)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:   As the country is set to issue visas free of cost to the first five lakh foreign tourists who apply from now, which is likely to be officially announced in a couple of weeks, hopes are high in Kerala where the tourist arrivals is only a trickle now.

The state used to get around 6-7% of the total foreign tourists arriving in the country.

According to the data compiled by the state tourism department, the first six months of the current year saw just 15,000 foreign persons, who came mostly for business and treatment purposes, whereas 3.24 lakh visited the state during the same period in the previous year.

The domestic sector has already shown some signs of improvement with 22.54 lakh domestic tourists visiting various destinations in the state despite the Covid-induced restrictions in the first half of the year.

Their number was 37.39 lakh during the same period in 2020.

When the latest data is compared to the pre-Covid 2019, the state still has a long road to go to get the sector back on track.

According to a tourism department senior officer, while foreign tourists came mainly for business and other purposes like medical treatment, arrival of domestic tourists in hilly areas like Wayanad and Idukki in the first three months of the year, just before the Covid second wave started, was near normal.

“Overall, the analysis of the first six months paints a rosy picture. If there is no major third wave of Covid, the domestic segment can come back to near normal by this year-end or by the beginning of the next fiscal. But in the case of foreign tourists, it will take some time and would depend on the Central government’s policy,” he said.

Meanwhile, there have been reports quoting officials from the Union home ministry that the country is likely to reopen its doors to foreign tourists for the first time in one-and-a-half years.

The first five lakh foreign tourists will be issued visas free of cost in an attempt to revive the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors which have been badly hit by the pandemic since March 2020.

“The state government should rise to the occasion as, at present, Kerala is second in vaccination coverage of its population in the country. We should press for the unrestricted inter-state movement of vaccinated foreign tourists as it is crucial from our perspective,” said Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry president E M Najeeb. Kerala Tourism additional chief secretary V Venu said the department has been holding campaigns targeting domestic tourists and campaigns to woo foreign tourists will be launched after the Centre announces its new policy.

Quick take

The Centre is likely to allow foreign tourists after one-and-a-half years.

First 5 lakh foreign tourists will be issued visas free of cost to revive tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors.

Formal announcement allowing foreign tourists in expected in next 10 days.

Kerala accounts for 6-7% of the total foreign tourist arrivals in country.

11,89,771 foreign tourists visited Kerala in 2019.

Domestic sector on path to revival

The domestic sector has already shown some signs of improvement with 22.54 lakh domestic tourists visiting various destinations in the state despite the Covid-induced restrictions in the first half of the year.



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