Lauding the pivotal role played by the government in the success of Kerala’s tourism, industry leaders speaking at a panel discussion at ASCEND Kerala 2020 investment conclave, today called for further cementing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to attract investment in globally appealing products and services.
Setting the context for the discussion on “Projects on Tourism and Hospitality”, Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said while tourism in Kerala was poised to scale new heights, the sector offered tremendous investment opportunities to the private sector.
“Tourism in Kerala is essentially a private sector driven activity. The government is only a facilitator. Our approach is to welcome and support private investors,” he said.
Noting that Kerala tourism was on a growth trajectory, Surendran said there is quite a long list of new project ideas that promise good returns to investors. These include MICE tourism, Malabar Cruise, cultural and heritage projects focusing on different regions and eco and adventure tourism.
The Champions Boat League (CBL), successfully launched in 2019, is a key area that holds tremendous investment potential, he noted.
“Tourism contributed 10 to 12 per cent of the state’s income. It is vital for job generation and brings benefits to the local community. Our approach is to facilitate sustainable development of tourism without causing stress to the environment. The government is open to all good investment proposals,” the Minister said.
Noting that there has been a broad consensus in the state that tourism activities should not be hampered in any manner, he said certain isolated incidents that went against this were mere aberrations.
Giving a snapshot of Kerala tourism’s current status, Tourism Secretary Rani George, said in 2018, Kerala was visited by 1.09 million foreign tourists and 15.6 million domestic visitors. This was despite the huge damage inflicted by the devastating floods on prime destinations, from which the sector has bounced back through strategic planning and support of stake-holders.
The first three quarters of 2019 saw an impressive growth of 15.73 per cent.
While it is necessary to have more upscale properties for the growth of segments like MICE tourism, a unique feature of Kerala’s tourism development has been its due emphasis on sustainable and community-centred activities, driven by the Responsible Tourism Mission, Rani George added.
Moderating the discussion, Jose Dominic, CEO, ‘Brand Guardian’, CGH Earth Hotels, noted that tourism in Kerala had come a long way in the last four decades, when it was largely seen a luxury activity for the rich.
“The inclusive socio-political culture of Kerala has been a vital factor in the growth of tourism in the state. Now we are not followers but global leaders, as our model is being emulated by others,” Dominic, an industry veteran, said.
Tourism Director P Bala Kiran said of late, the thrust has been on launching new products that will be appealing to visitors who look forward to a complete experience. This had started yielding good results as reflected in the recent figures, he added.
Noting that the state needs to make a big leap in getting big-ticket investment, Adeeb Ahmed, MD, Lulu Financial Group, Twenty 14 Holdings, suggested the state should create an SPV (special purpose vehicle) to build world class infrastructure on PPP model.
“Such an entity can identify and create infrastructure and then auction them out to international investors. We need to adopt a global, inclusive approach to enhance investor confidence”, Ahmed said.
Davis Karadan, Chairman, Softouch International FZC, said as a unique product, Kerala Ayurveda had great potential to attract visitors from all parts of the world. “If properly marketed, Kerala can become the world capital of Ayurveda,” he said.
Abraham George, Chairman and Managing Director, Intersight Tours and Travels, said Kerala should pay urgent attention in improving mobility, especially the road system, and seriously address the issue of waste management. These are two critical areas that call for immediate attention to maintain the growth of tourism, he added.
Shruti Shibulal, CEO, Tamara Leisure Experiences Pvt Ltd, said the hospitality industry has good prospects across the state. One promising area is pilgrimage and cultural tourism, which now lack good, modern facilities, she noted, adding a variety of products can be brought in to the state, which will generate quite a lot of jobs and help local communities.
Around 30 tourism and hospitality projects, cutting across the state, were showcased at the conclave.