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Tue 21 May 2019 09:54 AM

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Kerala eyes Middle East investors for tourism-related infra projects

Exclusive: Kerala plans to use public-private partnership model for development projects

Kerala eyes Middle East investors for tourism-related infra projects
Saudi Arabia currently ranks 5th in terms of foreign tourist inflows to Kerala (47,089 visitors in 2018), followed by Oman at 6th place (43,627) and UAE at 12th place (25,583).

Kerala Tourism plans to hold investors meet in the Middle East and few other select overseas markets to woo investments to fund tourism-related infrastructure projects in the state, the top executive of the department said.

In an exclusive interview with Arabian Business, Rani George, secretary, Tourism, Government of Kerala said, “We are planning to hold investors meet, including foreign investors meet in some of the overseas markets to attract investments in the field of tourism-related infrastructure projects in the state. The plan is currently under finalisation.”

Kerala Tourism, the body spearheading the entire tourism promotion activities in ‘God’s Own Country’, as Kerala is known the world over in the tourism sector, has identified a slew of infrastructure projects, particularly in the northern part of the state, to develop more tourist centres and further augment infrastructure facilities across the state.

“We propose to implement these projects on a sort of public-private partnership model and the proposed meets will be for attracting investments for these projects,” Rani George said.

“Though we want investments in tourism infra projects across the state, our focus will be on infra projects in the Malabar region (in Northern Kerala) to develop some of the hitherto unexplored tourism locations. So, we will also offer special incentives including tax holidays for investments in these areas,” she added.

GCC tourism campaign

Kerala Tourism will also launch a mega tourism campaign programme in the GCC countries from next month as part of its efforts to increase the tourist flow to the state from these countries.

“We actually planned to launch this mega campaign, based on our new theme – 'Human by Nature’ – this month (May) but because of the election related Model Code of Conduct, had to postpone it. This campaign, a multi-media blitzkrieg highlighting the local culture, the people and history of the places in Kerala, is to be launched in June,” Rani George said.

Besides Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman, this year Kerala Tourism is planning to launch the campaign in more countries in the Middle East region in an effort to reach out to a larger target audience in the region.

“For some reason, Kerala Tourism focused on the UK and Europe when it initially launched mega campaigns some 20 years ago to attract international tourists to the state, though the state had a thriving trade and travel relations with the Arab countries for centuries. We want to bring back the focus to the Midde East now,” she said.

Tourism focus

This year, Kerala Tourism will also focus on two new areas – MICE tourism (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) and adventure tourism to attract more tourists to the state, in addition to the traditional leisure and wellness tourism.

Two years ago, Kerala Tourism launched ‘Yalla Kerala’ (Let’s Do Kerala) campaign in the GCC market and the response was tremendous.

"We want to do such campaigns consistently and in a focused manner now onwards to revive our traditional ties with the Middle East region and attract more tourists from the region to our state," she added.

Saudi Arabia currently ranks 5th in terms of foreign tourist inflows to Kerala (47,089 visitors in 2018), followed by Oman at 6th place (43,627) and UAE at 12th place (25,583).

In terms of spending by foreign tourists in the state, Saudi tourists could figure almost in the top position, though the Tourism Board does not keep data on spending by tourists, Rani George said.

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