In a determined bid to make deeper inroads into the Mediterranean region and forge strong bonds with tourism sector of Israel, Kerala Tourism displayed a range of its touristy appeal by participating in the two-day IMTM (International Mediterranean Tourism Market) at Tel Aviv in Israel, which concluded here on Wednesday.
It was for the second time that Kerala participated in February 11-12 IMTM, which is the official and only professional exhibition for the tourism trade market in Israel.
Sanjeev Kumar Singla, Indian Ambassador to Israel, visited the Kerala stall at the fair, which is considered the trendsetter for the global and local tourist industry.
Biju B.S, Deputy Director, Kerala Tourism, led the official delegation, which included leading trade partners such as Kerala Voyages, Eastend Hotels and Resorts, Kairali Ayurveda, Eastbound Discoveries and Spiceland Holidays and Fragrant Nature Hotels & Resorts.
The delegation held many key meetings with trade partners from Israel. It also had a meeting with the CEO of Arkia Airlines.
The Kerala pavilion was splashed with the theme of “Human by Nature”, a three-minute new campaign film launched to appeal to high spenders and backpackers. Large backlit wall of the theme attracted a lot of visitors while brochures were distributed to potential tour operators.
The IMTM, the largest annual professional tourism fair of its kind in the Eastern Mediterranean, provides tourism trade a platform to meet outbound buyers and suppliers based in Israel.
“In 2019, Kerala Tourism participated in the IMTM for the first time to make its presence felt in a prestigious tourism event. The exercise was part of our aggressive plans to scout for new markets in the Middle East in a bid to substantially increase footfalls from that region,” Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said.
“We participated in this year’s IMTM as well to send a strong message to tourists in Israel and other countries in the Mediterranean region that Kerala has all the trappings of a tourist hotspot,” he added.
In recent times, Kerala has witnessed an uptick in tourist arrivals from Israel. In 2016, a total of 10,927 tourists visited the state from the Middle East country, and the figures rose to 11,892 in 2017 and 15,339 in 2018.
The direct flight from Tel Aviv, the second most populous city in Israel, to Kochi, which began in September last year, has also considerably helped in increasing footfalls from that country.
Kerala boasts of a strong connection with Israel and has the oldest Jewish settlement In India. The first Jewish settlers were sailors and traders who reached South India during 900-500 BCE and settled around the ancient trade centre and port-town of Muziris, called Shingly by the Jews. The second wave of Jewish settlers came in as migrants in the early 16th century following the Spanish / Portuguese inquisition and had Kochi as their base.
Cochin, one of the oldest Jewish settlements on Asian soil, had a much larger Jewish community than New York and surpassed it not only numerically, but also culturally. The Cochin Jewish community in 1792 had 2,000 Jews and nine synagogues of considerable antiquity, while New York had only 72 Jewish families and one synagogue.
At present, only around 30 Jews are to be found in the entire Kerala as diasporic Jews began migrating to Israel in the 1950s. Sarah Cohen, the oldest Jew who lived in Kochi, passed away on August 30, 2019.