Aiming to position God’s own country Kerala as a global brand the state has released its tourism draft policy in September. The draft policy envisages ways to address those issues such as tackling ‘hartal’ (public protest with a complete shutdown), which is dampening the tourism segment growth in the state. Through the tourism draft policy, the state intends to get 26 lakh international tourists and 1.86 lakh domestic tourists by 2021. The draft policy rolls out a series of measures to attract more people into this area, thus increasing the revenue contribution to the state treasury. More private participation in terms of investments, fast track clearance for investments above Rs 10 crore projects, tax holidays for accommodation facilities in the lesser developed districts of Kerala. The house boat operators in the state other than the Vembanad lake will be given special incentives. For the home-stays and ayurveda massage centres near tourist destinations, it will be mandatory to obtain permission from the tourism department in addition to the license from the Panchayats/ Muncipal corporations. Kerala Waste Free Destination (KWFD) campaign, Kerala Clean Toilet Campaign, Infrastructure Development and Responsible Tourism, special Task Force against trafficking and abuse, lifeguards near water destinations (this group will form the local community and 50 per cent will be females) and a Contingency Response Cell are the highlights of the policy. The state is also planning to grade the the wayside facilities with toilets and rest rooms according to quality. Chief Minister as chairman, a Cabinet Committee on Tourism will oversee the implementation of the projects. The policy also talks about new initiatives to explore new international and domestic tourists markets. While internationally Kerala tourism department will look at markets in China, Malaysia, Russia, Scandinavia, in India, the concentration will be on the central, western and the northern states of the country. The state plans to set up a Convention Promotion Bureau to market Kochi region to target the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) segment. The draft policy is put up for inter ministerial considerations and also for public response. Once it is incorporated, it will be passed by the cabinet, said the state tourism minster AP Anil Kumar in Thiruvananthapuram recently at the release of the draft.
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