The second edition of the virtual Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) got off to a start today with state Tourism Minister P.A. Mohamed Riyas highlighting the government’s moves to strengthen investments in infrastructure development, capacity building and marketing for the growth of the travel and hospitality industry.
“The Department of Tourism will intensify its marketing activities to further capitalize on the momentum created in the post-pandemic phase so as to enhance the footfall of both domestic and foreign visitors in the upcoming tourism season,” he said, inaugurating the four-day event of KTM Society, the state’s tourism apex forum.
Emphasizing the need to embrace innovation and technology to enhance the visitor experience showcasing the state’s unique offerings, the Minister said the growth of travel industry must benefit local communities and environment while enhancing the tourist ecosystem. With focus on Responsible Tourism, the government will ramp up efforts to market Kerala as a travel destination at the global level.
Delivering the keynote address, Finance K.N. Balagopal pledged the government’s continued support to the private sector in the travel industry. “We wholeheartedly support potential investors amid hopes of more capital-intensive investments,” he said.
The four days of deliberations at the event will give equal opportunities to those running homestays as well as star hotels, Balagopal said, expressing the hope that the virtual KTM will see innovative ideas and commercial pacts. “Kerala’s clean environment and variety of natural scenery are specialties that woo international tourists,” he added.
Minister for Law, Industries & Coir P. Rajeeve, who was the Guest of Honour, said ‘Emerging Kerala’ held by the government in 2012 initiated the process of transforming the state into a preferred investment destination. “Kerala has a huge social capital which is now paying rich dividends in terms of a highly qualified and skilled workforce,” he said at opening of the meet that seeks to reach out to trade partners, stakeholders and tourists across the world by leveraging digital tools.
Noting that Kerala’s sustainable model of inclusive growth is being adopted world-wide, Rajeeve said the state was fast transforming itself into a knowledge-based society and economy. “We have been among the country’s top five states on social development and sustainability indicators,” he added, noting that a new governmental focus has ensured that entrepreneurial innovations address social problems and promote cultural activities.
The Minister recalled that the state has come up with programmes that have promoted business investments, taking Kerala up to the 15th position from 21 on the all-India list of Ease of Doing Business in 2021. Revealing that the state is poised to get three new private industrial parks that will take their total to 11, he reeled out a list of benefits intended from the Kerala Industrial Policy 2023, which has ‘Tourism and Hospitality’ among its 22 priority sectors. With ‘Made in Kerala’ getting priority, the deliberations at the KTM virtual meet will get a fresh push, he added.
Kerala Tourism Principal Secretary K.S. Srinivas, presiding over the opening session, said KTM has become one of the country’s successful examples of private-public partnership. “Over the past two decades, KTM has evolved as one of the largest tourism buyer-seller events,” he said. “It has been successful in bringing travel agents, tour operators and media from all over the globe to familiarize themselves with tourism operations in Kerala.”
Kerala Tourism Director P.B. Nooh , in his introductory speech, said “as the world has become busier after the Covid-19 pandemic, this kind of a meet has become the need of the hour.”
KTM President Baby Mathew Somatheeram, while welcoming the gathering, said 120 foreign buyers and 395 domestic buyers have registered for the meet. Through state-of-the-art software they will hold virtual one-on-ones with 245 tourism investors.
Noting that KTM Society has played a vital role in positioning ‘Destination Kerala’ in International as well as domestic markets, he said its efforts could bring in new buyers and introduce its products to new markets. “More importantly, the KTM Society could bring in all spectra of Tourism stakeholders under one umbrella and could become the common voice of the tourism trade of Kerala.”
KTM Virtual 2023, Shri Somatheeram said, has been structured in an “entirely new mould” that provides maximum opportunities for the small and medium tourism facilitators in Kerala to participate and exhibit their products.
KTM Secretary Jose Pradeep proposed a vote of thanks. KTM’s past presidents Jose Dominic, E.M. Najeeb, Riaz Ahmed and Abraham George also attended the session.
The 2000-constituted KTM Society is the country’s biggest organisation in the travel and tourism segment.
Besides business meets, the event features seminars on live themes, offering insights into the latest trends in the tourism sector the world over and Kerala’s position as a major experiential tourism destination. There will be virtual business meets for three days from May 10 from 11.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m., while seminar sessions are scheduled from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on these days.
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