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Saturday, 05 November, 2016, 10 : 19 AM [IST]

KTM 2016: A Show of Shows

The ninth edition of Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) organised by KTM Society in partnership with Department of Tourism, Kerala, from September 28-30 once again outlined its primacy as the largest travel market place promoting a single destination in India. The show this year witnessed record participation with almost 2,000 buyers from both within India and 57 overseas markets, opening new vistas of business opportunities for more than 260 travel sellers. P Krishna Kumar offers an overview.
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Delegates of KTM at the Kerala pavillion

Liz Budge, a tour operator from Braamfontein, South Africa, was busy searching for her business cards in her vanity bag, when I met her during a smoking break outside the Convention Hall. She had completed her scheduled 20 meetings for the day, and was craving to meet more sellers, if she is left with her business cards. “I did lot more than my pre-fixed meetings. I still want to go in and meet more people,” she said, summing up the enthusiasm among the hosted buyers.

If Budge was a first time buyer, the presence of Daphne Richards, an 84-year-old Hampshire resident, who came calling to God’s Own Country 25th time in the last decade, made headlines in newspapers across Kerala, for her love and passion for Destination Kerala. “I’m living testimony to the pull of Kerala. Not only is it my favourite state in India, it’s like a home away from home,” said Richards. “This is the first time I have been to the KTM. There’s always something new to discover in Kerala. With so many stalls and attractions gathered here under one roof, what better place to come decide what to explore next?” she said.

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pavillionKTM Society releases ‘Agenda 9’ a Responsible Tourism Charter
for members

KTM as a travel show has evolved completely and has become a brand in itself. Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala, rightly called it “the shining example of public-private partnership.” The show had all elements of an international travel and tourism marketplace with organisers, buyers and sellers seriously participating in making it a fruitful business, knowledge and networking platform.

Clean & Green Tourism
There was a large thrust on responsible and sustainable tourism at KTM considering the recent issues that have cropped up in the state, especially in relation to overcrowding of houseboat facilitators in backwater destinations like Alleppey and Kumarakom, and unscientific waste handling. The Chief Minister himself dedicated large part of his inaugural speech on the urgency of addressing the issues of environment. Giving stern warning to people and businesses that indulge in unhealthy practices in waste disposal, etc., the CM said that the government will be embarking on a mass movement to revive water bodies like canals, ponds, rivers, backwaters, promoting organic farming, etc., by unleashing a movement at all levels. Vijayan also stressed on the need for spreading the benefits of tourism to more destinations in the state instead of confining to small geographies. Speaking about Wellness and Ayurvedic Tourism, the CM said that as the segment is not properly regulated, services are imparted by untrained people resulting in adverse image to the state. He said government will consider setting up training centres.

As if seizing the sentiments of the government of the stakeholding community at large, KTM Society has announced the adoption of a 9-point Charter – KTM Members Charter: Agenda 9 – to work to protect and preserve the environment.

Mircea Anitas

Speaking on the occasion, A. C. Moideen, Minister for Co-operation and Tourism, Government of Kerala, said that the endeavour is to speed up responsible tourism activities to more destinations to spread the benefits of tourism evenly across the state.

The success of KTM has been close synergies between the Kerala Tourism Department and the private industry. Dr V Venu, Secretary –Tourism of the State and UV Jose, Director – Tourism were ubiquitous through the Mart supporting and guiding the organisers and interacting with buyers and delegates. “KTM is one travel mart which is owned up completely by private trade and forged a fruitful partnership with the government. KTM is the spearhead for tourism growth in the state showcasing the spirit of entrepreneurship, especially that of small and medium entrepreneurs of Kerala and also the strength and inclusiveness of the tourism sector,” he said.

Kerala’s tourism industry is driven by small and medium entrepreneurs. For those smaller players who cannot afford to go and participate in international shows, KTM is a unique platform to showcase their products and services. The commitment and vigour was profoundly visible at the Samudrika Convention Hall at Willingdon Island where large, medium and small operators stood shoulder to shoulder to have the eyeballs on them. There were houseboats, wooden forest cabins, spice bazaars and old tharavad (homestay) models conveying the variety of experiences that the state has on offer for the traveller. Keeping with the theme for this year, which was Muziris and Spice Route Projects and Responsible & Village Tourism, there was a dedicated area to showcase them. The Responsible and Village Tourism pavilion was a huge draw.

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KTM Booth

Ethical & Responsible Tourism
The knowledge sessions held on the sidelines of the Mart drew large attention and participation. The talks largely veered around understanding the ‘buyers perspectives’ about Kerala. Many of them cautioned the destination managers and the local industry against tweaking with authentic nature and cultural experiences that Kerala is famous for. The panelists included long-time visitors to Kerala and industry experts.

Noting that Kerala was a special destination, Karen Anderson, a Canadian food writer and tour operator, said, that pristine nature, spices and food are clear differentiator for Kerala. “The spices one finds here, there really are very few places that can match Kerala in this aspect,” said Anderson, who stressed the importance of retaining core competencies and authenticity. However, she added that the profound amount of garbage everywhere and the over-crowding of houseboats, etc., in the backwater destination are major challenges. Questioning the liquor policy of the government, she said that only 4% of the population in the world is addicted to alcohol, and people on vacation do not generally over drink. “Being a dry state is punitive,” she said.

Sandeep Dayal, Head-Sales Business Development (Inbound), Cox & Kings, said that while he was thrilled by the beauty of the destination since his first visit in 1987, and has been promoting it through brochures, etc., ever since, there are various issues and challenges needed to be addressed at the ground level. Comparing Kerala with Sri Lanka, Dayal said Kerala was not keeping pace. Cleanliness, safety and security at beaches and backwaters, lack of clear categorisation of products, etc., are posing challenges, he added. While Fort Kochi is an ideal destination for heritage walks, Dayal said open garbages are a major issue.

Gilles Guillot, who works for a French tour operator, and has been visiting Kerala since 1977, said that for him culture is more important than tourism and therefore it is important hotels are abreast with the cultural events happening around and facilitates tickets, etc., for guests. Harping on the need to maintain authenticity, Guillot cautioned against Kerala becoming a destination for the rich.

Speaking at the Ethical and Responsible Tourism seminar, Suman Billa, Jt. Secretary – Tourism, Government of India, said that the image of tourism as an elitist indulgence has been changing and initiatives like Responsible tourism has helped in taking the benefits of tourism to the grassroots. Today, Responsible tourism is not a choice but a compulsion, he added. A five-star hotel anywhere and everywhere is the same, therefore people are looking for experiential tourism. Kerala’s success lies in satiating that hunger for experiences, he added. He also spoke about the resistance from within the industry when responsible tourism concept was first mooted in Kerala. However, by bringing RT initiatives into the classification guidelines, the government were able to bring the industry around, he added.

There was panel discussion on Muziris and Spice Route projects at the KTM.





Buyers’ Feedback

Carol Costa Marshall, Trip Stylist, Marshall’s World of Travel, New York

This is my second visit to Kerala and for KTM. I have travelled and participated in number of travel shows. KTM is one among the best organised travel marts in the world. The suppliers here are fantastic and options are plenty. Kerala is special. It is exotic. The state offers a lot of history, culture, cuisines, etc. When a US traveller visits places as distant as India and Kerala, he looks for special experiences. Kerala is ideal for special experiences. The destination can appeal to all kinds of travellers.

M Mircea Anitas, Manager, Sicievents.com, Paris

I am a first timer at KTM. I am really impressed with the destination Kerala as well as the event. It is a very well organised show. The turnout was really large. The ambience was good. The products are really good, and my meetings were perfect. French people will certainly like to come here. Nature, culture, and above all the popular Ayurveda can appeal to the French travellers. The houseboats are another good product. I am glad that I am here at KTM.

Liz Budge, Manager, XL Oceanair Travel, Braamfontein, South Africa

This is my first visit to Kerala. I am really thrilled to be here. The climate is tropical like Durban, and the food is awesome. It’s different and really an explosion of flavours. KTM was really good for me. I did lot more meetings than scheduled. People are very friendly and accommodative. Kerala can really appeal to South Africans, especially Ayurveda and natural healing.



Sellers’ Perspective

Abraham George, MD, Intersight Tours & Travels and President, KTM Society

KTM is the largest travel mart in India focused on one single destination, Kerala. The show has recorded 300% growth in the number of registered buyers. We are really happy and encouraged the way the show has progressed. There were 25,000 buyer-seller meets on each day, which is a record. Buyers from 10 new markets including China, Korea, Japan, etc. participated this year. Moreover, 50% of the buyers were first time visitors. This will open new business opportunities for Kerala.

Riaz Ahmed, MD, Abad Hotels & Resorts, and former President, KTM Society

KTM has been evolving and growing with every edition. We have professionalised the show to the extent that registration, appointments, etc., are now done online. Business meetings and interactions are done in a serious and professional fashion at KTM. Irrespective of the size and stature of the business, everybody gets the equal visibility and opportunity at KTM. It’s a platform for everyone.

 
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