25 years of Kerala’s tourism industry

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When Kerala decided to grant industry status to tourism sector in the state it became the first Indian state to do so. 25 years down the lane tourism has become a full-fledged, multi-billion dollar industry. 


Abin K. I. 
History of Kerala Tourism dates back to 1980’s. Initially it was started as a hospitality department by the Government of Kerala. Kerala strongly realized the importance of Tourism during the mid 80’s. Tourism was recognized as an industry in Kerala in 1986 – vide an order dated July 11, 1986. Kerala was the first state to declare tourism as an industry. India Government bestowed industry status on tourism only in 1992. 

As far as Kerala is concerned it was only in the seventh plan that Department of Tourism was constituted, which indicates that the state government was very late in realizing its tourism potential. It was as late as 1990 that the state government had identified tourism as a major foreign exchange earner as well as an employment generator.

Promotions both in print and electronic media help to attract more tourist arrivals to Kerala and also to attract a big investment in hospitality sector. Kerala Tourism is always noted for its innovative tourism products and market focused advertisement campaigns. Catchy slogans and innovative designs are the specialty of Kerala Tourism. Comprehensive tourism policy was introduced in Kerala during the year 1995. The Tourism Policy of Kerala stated as its main aim “to serve as a guiding force to make maximum use of Kerala’s tourism potential and also to make it an ideal instrument of social and economic growth”. During early 2000 tourism became a multi billion dollar industry in the state. 

Till the end of last century Kerala was an unknown destination in some countries, but the scenario has now been totally changed and now has become one of the fastest growing destinations in the world with a growth rate of 13.31 per cent. Government acts as a facilitator for the development of tourism in the state. Ever since tourism was declared an industry in 1986, several incentives which were available to investors in other industrial sectors have been extended to the tourism sector as well by the State Government. These include subsidies, technical guidance, marketing assistance, publicity through governmental publications, help in availing loans etc.

If you look for the reasons for the growth of Tourism in Kerala you would find that availability of unique tourism products, tourist friendly image of the state and governance with a clear vision played a major role. 

Twenty five years down the lane Kerala is one of the must see destinations to be visited by a traveller in his life time (according to National Geographic magazine). The role played by the government as a facilitator in the development of tourism in Kerala is very crucial. 

Kerala Institute of Tourism and Travel Studies (KITTS) impart quality education and training in the field of travel and tourism. KITTS provides opportunities to students to develop their managerial and organizing skills by encouraging them to organize various activities in and out of the campus. Kerala Institute of Hospitality Management Studies (KIHMS) is the hospitality wing of KITTS. 

Kerala tourism has to conserve its natural resources for the development of sustainable tourism. Only sustainable tourism can produce good results without causing damage to the environment. Kerala is definitely a role model for other states in tourism development because of its continuous innovation in tourism products and strategies. 

More travel circuits and development of tourism in the Malabar region is very vital for reducing the overcrowding in tourist spots situated in southern and central Kerala. To move forward in a progressive way Kerala Tourism has to focus more on key areas like improvement of accommodation sector and development of human resources, (both quantity and quality), road networks, international air connectivity, product diversification, environmental conservation measures, improve private-public participation in tourism etc.

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