Stakeholders’ meeting had nothing to do with liquor policy: Tourism Director

Stakeholders’ meeting had nothing to do with liquor policy: Tourism Director

Thiruvananthapuram | Hours after the opposition attacked the state government saying it held a recent meeting of tourism stakeholders to change its liquor policy, the Kerala Tourism Directorate on Sunday refuted the charges saying the May 21 meeting was just a regular meeting.

Terming the media reports in this regard "misleading", Tourism Director Sikha Surendran said the meeting was attended by industry groupings of resorts, hotels, houseboats and event management groups, all of which play a significant role in developing the tourism sector, she said.

The meeting was not convened on the directions of the Tourism Minister, Surendran added in a press statement.

Earlier in the day, the opposition Congress alleged that bar owners also took part in the meeting held over video-conferencing platform Zoom on May 21, and that discussions on the dry day and the extension of opening hours of bars were held.

In the statement, Surendran said that the participants of the meeting were the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) Society, Event Management Association, Houseboat Association, Federation of Kerala Hotels Association, South Kerala Hotels Federation, Association of Approved and Classified Hotels and Kerala Tourism Development Association.

"The Directorate of Tourism convenes such regular meetings of stakeholders to discuss various demands put forward by organisations in this sector," she said.

The details of those who participated in the meeting make it very clear that this is not a special meeting of bar owners or related to the government's liquor policy, as is now being made out to be, she explained.

She said these collectives raised issues related to the obstacles they face in promoting Kerala as a wedding and MICE tourism destination and the problems faced by the industry in general.

She also clarified that the Directorate of Tourism has not conveyed any recommendations, opinions, or decisions on these issues to the government.

"Thus, only a stakeholder meeting was held on May 21, and one of the issues raised by various organisations was briefly mentioned in a meeting notice circulated.

There is no basis for the allegation that the tourism department was encroaching on the functions of other departments," she said.

Organisations in the tourism industry have been raising these issues for a long time. However, neither have any decisions been taken in the meeting nor have any reports or recommendations been sent to the government in this regard, she said.

The Directorate of Tourism has nothing to do with the news circulating regarding the liquor policy or the remarks made by certain people, Surendran added.

The Opposition criticism came after reports that the state government was considering scrapping the 'dry day' norm (which prohibits the sale of alcohol in the state on the first day of every calendar month), sparking a political storm in the state.

While the Congress-led UDF has accused the LDF government of taking bribes from bar owners to favour them, the Left claims it has not yet held any deliberations over its liquor policy.

The issue of purported withdrawal of the 'dry day' policy snowballed into a controversy after an audio clip said to be of a bar association member allegedly asking other members to pay money for a 'favourable liquor policy' was aired on TV channels.

The opposition Congress-led UDF came out with allegations that the Left government sought Rs 20 crore from bar owners to make a policy favourable to them and demanded the resignation of Excise Minister M B Rajesh.

Brushing aside the allegations and the opposition's demand, Rajesh said the state government has not yet held any deliberations regarding its liquor policy.

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