Kerala tourism targets Australia, Middle East

Mumbai: Buoyed by an over 11 per cent spike in foreign tourist arrivals in 2011, which was a bad year for the global tourism industry given the bleak world economic environment, Kerala is on a marketing blitz to attract more travellers from the Middle East and the Down Under.

"We plan to spend over Rs 10 crore on mass media campaigns and road shows alone in the Middle East and Australia this year," Kerala tourism director Rani George told PTI in Thiruvananthapuram recently.

This is significant considering the fact that the entire marketing budget for the Tourism Department of the `God`s own Country`, which is how Kerala is known in the global tourism circles, for the year is only Rs 35 crore.

The marketing blitz for the Middle East involves road shows and mass media campaigns involving television and print media. The first leg of the campaign has already been kicked off in Saudi Arabia, with its three main cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhamam as the focal points of the road shows, George said.

For Australia too, the department will be using the mass media and road show models to lure the rich Aussies into the country, she said, adding the campaign will kick off early February.

The other focal markets for 2012 will be Russia and China, she added.

George further said the department has also empanelled creative agency — Stark, to come out with a safe tourism awareness film that will help locals respect the foreigners visiting the state. The ad film will be ready in the next six months and will be aired in the main markets of Europe and Britain, she added.

"Foreign tourist arrivals rose 11.18 percent in 2011 to 7.32 lakh, while the domestic arrivals touched 93.8 lakh during the year, which is an increase of 9.15 percent," George said.

In revenue terms, those from foreign tourists rose 11.2 per cent to Rs 4,221 crore, George said adding, "the overall revenue from tourism touched Rs 19,037 crore, which is an increase of 9.74 per cent in 2011 over 2010."

This makes the contribution of tourism to the state GDP nearly 10 per cent, she added. Last year, the revenue from tourism had crossed Rs 17,000 crore, constituting 9 per cent of the state GDP.

On the prospects for this year, George said, she is targeting an 8-10 per cent spike in overall arrivals. When asked whether the department is looking at new tourism circuits in the state, she said, the state is already working a Northern Circuit, which will be completed in FY13.

"For the central part, we are developing a heritage project in Kodungaloor in Thrissur district. Called the Muziris Heritage Project, this involves Rs 200 crore investment," the tourism director said.