Foreigners few and far, tourism revival hit in Kerala- The New Indian Express

Express Message Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala’s tourism sector is struggling. While the influx of domestic tourists has increased following the easing of Covid restrictions, the number of foreign tourists – who are spending the big bucks – is not even a quarter of what they were before the pandemic, beating the tourism sector’s hopes of a quick revival comes to nothing after a break of almost three years.

Here’s how bad things are: Kerala received just over 1,000 international tourists as of July 2022. The number had surpassed 6,000 by July 2019 and was nearing 12,000, an all-time high by the time the year was over
Industry experts blame the center’s delay in recovering from the failure of the e-visa for visitors from the UK and Canada, who account for a large proportion of foreign tourists coming to India, and the state government’s lack of vision to promote Kerala tourism worldwide for the promote decline, responsible. The e-visa feature was suspended in March 2020.

“The state government is in talks with the Ministry of Tourism about easing to ease international arrivals. The pandemic stole three years from us. We had hoped things would pick up again this year. Unfortunately it didn’t happen. We hope things will get better soon,” a senior tourism department official told TNIE.

State Takes No Steps to Know Foreign Tourist Demands: Tour Operators

Local tourists are currently keeping the industry going. Around 87,000 domestic tourists visited Kerala through July, compared to 1.8 million for all of 2019. “What we need right now is an aggressive marketing strategy to attract foreign tourists. We hope that the number of foreign tourists will increase in January,” said Rajesh PR, an outbound tour manager.

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Meanwhile, many tourism stakeholders feel that the state government lacks vision and is not properly studying the market or tourist demand. “The government doesn’t investigate any real issues or even interact with tour operators to understand what foreign tourists want. The Jagratha portal is still used at Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram airports and tourists are forced to complete such formalities. This affects our efforts to attract tourists. It is much easier for them to visit Vietnam, Turkey or Thailand. We need to be more welcoming and remove such restrictions,” said Shaik Ismail, President of Tourism Professionals Club and Tourism Care Foundation. The Jagratha portal has been used to keep track of people entering the state during the pandemic.

Ismail also said little step is being taken to develop beaches that stretch 590 km along the state’s coastline. “Seventy percent of foreign tourists come to Kerala for the beaches. However, the government has not even developed a single beach for foreigners to spend time and swim. Many destinations lack basic facilities like washrooms,” he said. “Kerala should do more to promote tourism. Attending global events without the right vision will not woo tourists. Healthy conversations with tourism stakeholders are not happening,” he claimed.

The lack of quality taxi service is another problem affecting the tourism industry. “Due to such logistical issues, we cannot bring guests. We need good cars and experienced drivers to drive foreign guests around. Such services no longer exist post-pandemic,” Rajesh said.

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