Kerala is one of the states blessed with an abundance of natural beauty that is a major attraction for tourists. With the Arabian Sea along its entire coast-line, Kerala, also known as God’s Own Country, receives not only a good number of domestic tourists but also foreign tourists.

And the state wants to continue this trend. Therefore, this year, to attract more tourists, its Tourism Board organised a partnership meeting in the Capital, wherein they declared they would increase tourist footfall by 50 per cent in the domestic and 100 per cent in the international segments by 2020.

However, Kerala is already attracting an increasing number of tourists, both international and domestic, over the years.

In 2016, the state hosted 10,38,419 international tourists, an increase of 6.25 per cent over the previous year, while the number of domestic tourists stood at 1,31,72,535, a 5.67 per cent increase over last year. To maximize the tourist arrival, the state is taking various steps.

The state is coming up with new destinations and one international airport in Kannur. This airport will be very crucial and is expected to generate footfalls in north Kerala.

Destinations like Bekal, which is famous for its sea front, and Wayanad, a hill station known for its spectacular waterfalls, will get a boost once the airport comes up.

Other than this, the Tourism Board plans to give a special feeling to foreign tourists, who flock to Kerala to experience its cultural heritage.

Thus, the state has something for everyone one. For instance, for art aficionados, the state has Kochi Muziris Biennale; and for history buffs Muziris Heritage Project and the Spice Route.

On the sidelines of the event, Muraleedharan P, Kerala government’s Tourism Information Officer shared the plans to expand tourism this fiscal. Excerpts:

How will you promote Kerala this fiscal?

This year we are trying to concentrate on online and social media marketing. Right now we have set up only two per cent of Budget for social marketing. Now we have enhanced it to 20 per cent.

When it comes to tourism, Kerala is already blessed. Are you trying to develop new destinations to give tourists a new flavour?

Of course. Since we are targeting 100 per cent increase in foreign tourists and 50 per cent in domestic tourists, we have to introduce new destinations. Kannur airport is part of this plan.

How will the new airport boost tourism?

The new airport will be operational from this September. This will be the biggest airport in Kerala and many international airlines have already shown interest to fly here.

This airport will contribute a lot to tourism. There are many unexplored areas in north Malabar like Wayanad and Kannur, which will be given a thrust.

Wayanad is very close to Mysore and Bangalore. With the coming of this international airport, it will ease the connectivity in this area.

Are you trying to develop any other areas after this airport comes up?

Kannur is already on the tourist map ~ it is the destination known for ‘diving beaches’. For instance, at Muzhappilangad Beach, one can dive after 6-7 km from the beach.

At the same time one can also go for canoeing and kayaking activities in the rivers. There are many beaches, which are not crowded ~ tourists prefer these areas.

In terms of infrastructure development, how much are you spending this year?

We can spend on airport and road connectivity. The rest of the infrastructure, like resorts, hotels and homestays, have to be developed by private players. We are just a catalyst, arranging a platform for them.

Any new campaign that Kerala Tourism has started?

Yes…there is a Green Carpet initiative, to make the destination fully lively. For this we have set up ten point agenda like cleanliness, waste management and enough lights, which every destination has to fulfil. This is an initiative to make the destination more tourist-friendly.