Kerala: No Nipah fallout, focus on domestic, says Director Tourism

Despite the Nipah virus scare, tourism remains intact in Kerala. The medical emergency has been contained, domestic footfalls are steady and states such as Madhya Pradesh are emerging as new source markets for the state, says P Bala Kiran, Director Tourism, Kerala. He notes that promoting MICE, monsoon tourism and Grand Malabar circuit are department’s imminent priorities. Excerpts from the interview:

P Bala Kiran
Director Tourism, Kerala

On trends this summer

Kerala tourism has banked on pre-summer traffic in the initial months and while official numbers are yet to be released by the department, P Bala Kiran exudes confidence that the state is expected to register a year-on-year rise of 15-16 percent in footfalls. Commenting on expectations from the monsoon season, he shares that the season has “just started” and “we will have to wait and see.”

Nipah virus scare and impact on tourism

Calling Nipah virus not only a concern for tourism but also for health and well-being of people, he states that mortality rates are high, causing concern in locals and tourists alike. He, however, notes that the state health department “has been able to contain the issue to two districts.” “The spread has been kept limited to two districts and a handful of places in them,” he says, assuaging concerns. He says that the state government has been “very careful” and put people on “surveillance” which has worked well. He also shares that much of tourism in the state is concentrated in the southern region, which has largely remained untouched by the viral outbreak.

Tapping new markets: The USA, Canada, and South-Asia

Western Europe has traditionally remained a strong source market and continues to do well, says P Bala Kiran. “Western Europe is a big market for us. France, Germany and the UK. We are rock steady in those areas,” he says. He adds that there has been a “100 percent growth in tourists from the Middle-east”. “The region has emerged in a big way,” he says. He attributes the trend to robust connectivity with the region and mentions that there are over 40 daily flights connecting the two. “Historical, cultural connect and the fact that we have 4 international airports are great factors in driving numbers,” he says.

He also notes that “the sheer diversity” in the physical environment in Kerala is “an attraction for travellers from the Middle-east.”

Insights on domestic tourism

He candidly admits that tourism in Kerala is “primarily driven by domestic sector travellers.” Giving an overview of footfalls from within the country, he details that Delhi, West Bengal and Maharashtra are key source markets, and account for as much as “80 percent of total domestic footfalls.” “Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are emerging as new source markets,” he shares.

Sharing that the state tourism department has launched a new campaign to boost domestic footfalls called “come out and play”, he believes that the media outreach would have a positive impact in adding to state’s visibility.

When asked why the campaign is being restricted to the domestic audience, he explains that instead of competing with global destinations in beaches, the state department is sticking to its true strengths – Ayurveda, wellness, experiential and leisure. “We cannot compete with international destinations when it comes to beaches,” he notes.

Speaking on imminent plans for the state department, he shares that the department would concentrate on making Kerala “a 12-month destination.” “Areas such as the Grand Malabar Circuit, monsoon tourism and MICE would be our areas of focus,” he says. 

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