Kerala, one of the destinations thronged by travellers round the year has witnessed a severe breakdown in the MICE business in the last couple of years. One of the reasons for this downfall has been the liquor restriction, which was implemented in August 2014. To bring back the MICE business, Kerala Tourism is now looking to setup a taskforce.
Speaking about the development Dr. Venu V., Principal Secretary, Kerala Tourism said, “We have lost 30 per cent of our MICE business in the last couple of years. We are now trying to setup a taskforce and the conservative plan would be that if we work aggressively, then in the next two years we might get to where we were three years back. MICE Business that goes away from us is very difficult to get back. Sri Lanka has taken our major business.” Further speaking about the tourism status in 2017 post the demonetisation phase he said, “We are maintaining the growth rate in the first six months of 2017. I can’t say that we are improving, but have not seen a significant dip. Industry reports are that businesses have not seen a major dip. Jan and Feb saw a little downfall.”
Kerala Tourism is now re-strategising and is positioning themselves as an activity and adventure destination. As of now close to 2000 inbound visitors to Kerala travel exclusively for adventure.
Venu added, “We see the convention not as a one of event; this is part and parcel of a comprehensive strategy. We have secured budgets for promoting Kerala as an activity and adventure destination. I have a taskforce to promote adventure tourism. Over the next two years we have a target of at least getting 5000 inbound visitors who come here for pure adventure. Also we are looking at incorporating adventure activity in at least 25 per cent of the itineraries. As of now under 2000 people come to Kerala from oversees seeking an exclusive adventure holiday. We are looking at the UK, Germany, Scandinavian countries for adventure inbound.”
Northern Kerala has been identified as the hub for adventure activities. Also, the destination is looking to promote water-based adventure as it has a vast network of backwater canals. Venu said, “There are two areas for activity and adventure Wayanad and Idukki, both have a variety of natural settings used for adventure. We will naturally have more investments coming here. We want to expand geographically and also offer more varieties and activities. We have seen that a lot of young entrepreneurs are exploring sites which are not there in adventure map, which is very refreshing. I want to see more such initiatives. Also we have 100’s of kms of canals which are ideal for canoeing and kayaking. We are giving opportunity to visitors to get closer to the waters of Kerala. Our operators are working on a lot of new activities which will come in a few years.”
In India, most of the states have announced attractive subsidy and schemes for investors in their respective tourism policies. On the contrary, Kerala has discontinued will any sort of subsidy or tax holidays.
Speaking about the strategy behind this move Venu said, “An investor should not be investing in tourism if he’s not passionate about it. We want people to invest on sustainable models and not invest only because there are subsidies. We have moved away from subsidies. We work very closely with the private players in promoting the products and the destination. We do intensive marketing programmes; also we are responsive to industry’s demands, also we creating marketing platforms like Kerala Travel Mart. We also do around 35 roadshows across the country. By all these only the investors benefit. We are not licensing people, by just floating tenders or expressions of interest, we work more like corporate.”
Earlier, Kerala had announced a major Seaplane project, which couldn’t take off quite well. The project was started and was stalled due to various issues with the operator. When asked about the developments on this project Venu said, “I don’t believe that there are many places in Kerala that are inaccessible which need to be reached only by Seaplanes. The problem about the seaplane project is that before it was conceptualised it was promoted a lot. Without checking whether the seaplane company had all licences and if the locals are positive about this, the project was started. Till date the seaplane operator does not have licences. We have invested quite a bit of money in this project.”