Kerala should ramp up its commitment to responsible tourism (RT) and move towards declaring the whole state as an RT destination in the light of changing consumer preferences towards zero carbon destinations and zero food miles besides factoring environmental costs beyond economic costs, Suman Billa, director of Technical Cooperation and Silk Road, UNWTO, said.
India has a robust domestic market, and Kerala, famous for its products like wellness, houseboats, and home stays, would emerge strongly, he said, addressing a session at the three-day ‘Kerala Looks Ahead’ (KLA) global conference and consultation. “Kerala also needs to add ‘instagrammable’ activities to attract the younger clientele,” he said.
Billa said UNWTO had described 2020 as the worst year ever for tourism with international tourist arrivals plummeting by 74 per cent, which translated into one billion less international tourists, 1.3 trillion dollars less in export revenues and a loss of 100-120 million direct jobs in the sector. He, however, exuded hope that the pre-pandemic levels of international travel may be achieved in 2023-24.
Billa said the Spice Route project is the ideal vehicle to take Kerala’s tourism to the next level to build a compelling story and expand the footprint in its key markets.
Kadakampally Surendran, tourism minister of Kerala, said the state has taken several steps to preserve and revive tourism so that it will remain on a firm footing to meet the demand during the post-COVID times. “For that, we must first promote domestic tourism. Health tourism can also provide enough opportunities. We have now tailored our tourism policy to suit to the COVID times.”
While emphasising the need to leverage the existing projects, he also listed the new areas like adventure tourism, promotion of the Malabar region in a big way, boosting the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and supporting the Muziris Heritage projects. “The adventure tourism academy in Thiruvananthapuram is in the final stages and in Malabar we are linking eight rivers of Kannur and Kasaragod to promote cruise tourism,” he informed.