Kerala tourism wary of US financial crisis

September 20th, 2008 - 4:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Kozhikode, Sep 20 (IANS) Kerala is bracing up to a possible fall in foreign tourist traffic due to the financial crisis in the US. Kerala annually earns around Rs.100 billion ($2.17 billion) from domestic and foreign tourists. With the peak season, beginning in October and lasting till March, on the doorstep, stakeholders in the sector are wondering how the financial crisis will affect the world economy.

“It is now too early to comment on the effect of the crisis in the US. But we are planning for a possible slowdown,” Kerala Tourism Secretary V. Venu told IANS.

“We have talked to our tour operators. At present, there are no cancellations. Everything is going on as usual,” he added.

As part of its strategy to counter any fall in foreign tourist arrivals, Kerala will concentrate more on domestic tourism. “We have already kicked off our road shows in metros in the country. Now, we will move to tier II cities that we can bring in more domestic tourists,” Venu said.

Tour operators are also of the view that Kerala should bank on domestic tourism as many prospective foreign tourists may have revised their plans because of high airfares.

“A fall in the number of foreign tourists can be compensated by domestic customers. Issues like rise in the airfare will make people to look at domestic destinations,” said Shailendra M., vice-president-sales of CGH Earth, a leading hotel and resort chain in Kerala.

If there was a slump in the US economy it would affect in bound tourism, he felt.

“The US has been a growing market for Kerala, though the state depends more on Europe for its foreign customers.”

However, Shailendra added that a section of the US population remained unaffected by the financial crisis.

“Most in this segment are above 50 years of age, have good savings and are largely unaffected by the financial crisis. They come for things like health tourism. However, these people are very sensitive to issues like terrorism and bomb blasts,” he said.

According to Shailendra, the Kerala brand in tourism was well established. “Kerala is now like Bali. Tourists say they go to Bali and not Indonesia. Here they would say Kerala.”

Venu said that as part of a scheme to reduce risk from a crisis in any particular region, Kerala’s tourism sector was spreading its reach to newer markets like Australia, Singapore, Brazil and South Africa.

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