KERALA’s newly unveiled tourism campaign for 2015 could backfire as its alcohol ban kicks in, with the conference and convention sector in particular expected to take a hit.
Since April 1, only 24 five-star hotels in Kerala have been licensed to serve India-made foreign liquor.
This spells trouble for Kerala Tourism’s Rs150 million (US$2.4 million) Visit Kerala 2015 initiative, which was rolled out on April 15.
“We will focus on products that are unique to Kerala like Ayurveda and spice route. We will foray into new markets like China by participating in trade fairs and roadshows and organising fam tours. Kerala will be promoted as a major wedding and MICE destination through online campaigns,” said G Kamala Vardhana Rao, secretary, Kerala Tourism.
The NTO has also reduced luxury tax rates from 12.5 per cent to five per cent to help hotels reduce room tariffs during the low season.
However, Kunju Michael, managing director of Hotel Maharani in Calicut, lamented that the alcohol ban will drive tourists to other destinations instead.
“The ban will have a direct effect on services like conferences and conventions. I presume that every year we’ll see a 10 per cent drop in the business,” he added.
Similarly, Abraham George, chairman and managing director, Intersight Holidays and president, Kerala Travel Mart, believed that the ban would have a negative effect on MICE and convention businesses.
“We are discussing with the government to amend the rules and allow us special licences for conferences and conventions,” he added.
Nevertheless, Kerala Tourism will continue venturing into new markets in China and Sri Lanka through trade fairs, roadshows and fam tours, court upcoming markets like the US, and continue aggressive campaigns in traditional markets such as the UK, France and Germany.
A focused Ayurveda and monsoon campaign will be conducted in the Middle East where 90 per cent of the Indian diaspora is from Kerala.
Kerala recorded 923,000 foreign tourists in 2014.
– Additional reporting by Rohit Kaul