Thiruvananthapuram | Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday called upon investors to become partners in the state's transformation into a world-class economy by investing in its flourishing tourism sector.
Kerala is all set to transform itself from being the best tourism destination to the "perfect tourism investment destination" in the country, he said, speaking after inaugurating the Tourism Investors Meet here.
By investing in Kerala Tourism, investors would also be a part of this tremendous transformation, he said.
“Kerala is the only state in the country with four international airports. We have numerous national and State highways. Soon one can travel from Kerala's northern end to its southern end on water. Kerala has the highest number of 5-star hotels in the country. We are investment-ready, we are accessible, our workforce is well trained and our physical and digital infrastructure is unmatched in the country,” Vijayan said.
The Tourism Investors Meet, the CM said, is intended to connect investors with key stakeholders, local entrepreneurs, and industry experts to explore potential collaborations and gain valuable insights into Kerala's tourism ecosystem.
He further said that a Single Window Clearance System has been created to assist tourism investors and a facilitation centre set up to follow up on the preliminary deliberations at the Investors meet.
The State, he pointed out, is providing investment subsidies and incentives and encouraging Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the tourism sector.
“As the tourism sector in Kerala continues to grow at a rapid pace, your investments will also reap rich dividends. Your investments can further develop our tourism infrastructure and enhance the quality of our services," he said.
The investments would surely benefit from the vibrant hospitality and services sector here, he said, adding that it would generate indirect employment in allied industries such as handicrafts and agriculture as well.
Vijayan said the emergence of Kerala as a global tourism hotspot is backed by solid numbers. In terms of domestic tourist arrivals, the state hit an all-time record in 2022, with 1.88 crore domestic travellers visiting Kerala. International tourist arrivals also registered an exceptional growth of 171.55 per cent in the first half of 2023, compared to the first half of 2022, he said.
Revenue generated by Kerala's tourism sector has also been on a steady rise, with it more than tripling from Rs 11,335.96 crore in 2020 and Rs 12,285.91 crore in 2021 to Rs 35,168.42 crore in 2022.
The state's foreign exchange earnings from tourism was Rs 2,792.42 crore in 2022, he further said, adding that tourism accounts for about 12 per cent of Kerala's GDP and almost a quarter of the state workforce -- 23.5 per cent -- is employed in the tourism sector.
“The fact that we have come back stronger than ever before despite recurring challenges, be it Ockhi or Nipah or floods or COVID-19, is a testament to Kerala being an everlasting tourist attraction," Vijayan said.
Strategic crisis management, innovative marketing and community focused sustainable tourism initiatives have made us resilient and adaptable in the face of multiple crises, he further said.
The CM pointed out that Kerala Tourism has expanded its horizons with the launch of 'Keravan Kerala' for caravan tourism enthusiasts, Heli-Tourism, which provides aerial views of the state's enchanting landscapes, and Cruise Tourism being tapped to showcase the serene backwaters.
“We are also positioning Kerala as a wedding destination, targeting a global audience. To give a new perspective to Kerala Tourism, seven visual corridors with a product that is unique to each corridor is also being envisaged,” the chief minister said.
He said the efforts at transforming Kerala Tourism are a part of the overall project of transforming the state into a knowledge economy and an innovation society.
Kerala is being reshaped into ‘Navakeralam', a society which would be at par with advanced middle-income nations, with resilience, sustainability and inclusivity as its hallmarks, he explained.
MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) facilities are aplenty in Kerala. Hospitality, leisure, entertainment, human resources, IT, wellness, heritage, wildlife, backwaters, hill stations, beaches are all areas that can create rewarding investment opportunities in the state.
The state is very keen to promote responsible and sustainable tourism investments that align with Kerala's commitment to environmental conservation and community development, he further said.
"Kerala is looking for sustainable tourism initiatives that seek to develop eco-friendly accommodations, promote responsible travel practices, and support community-based tourism projects that empower local communities while preserving their way of life and the natural surroundings," he said.
"The expectations of modern travelers are high. Kerala is already meeting them, but we want to exceed them. To me, that is where this meet can make a marked difference,” the chief minister said, hoping that the Tourism Investors Meet would be a game changer in Kerala's tourism development.