Kochi, Sep 20 (UNI) Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan today exhorted the state tourism industry to intensify its efforts to attract more domestic tourists as the growth rate in domestic arrivals was far less than that of foreign visitors.
Inaugurating the fifth Kerala Travel Mart (KTM), billed as the largest tourism B2B meet in South-East Asia here, Mr Achuthanandan assured the industry that the state government would do its bit to aid tourism by improving the infrastructure in the state.
The Kannur International Airport and the proposed seaport at Vizhinjam would be a reality in three years' time while efforts would be made to expedite the Kochi Metro Rail, he added.
He noted that Kerala had attracted 500,000 foreign visitors and over six million domestic tourists last year. However, while the growth rate in foreign arrivals was nearly 20 per cent, for domestic visitors it was only six per cent.
Stressing the important role played by tourism in boosting the state's economy, the Chief Minsiter said that along with IT, tourism was expected to add substantialy to the state's future growth.
Union Tourism Minister Ambika Soni, who was to be the chief guest at the function, could not attend due to indisposition, Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) Society president E M Najeeb said.
Presiding over the function, Kerala Tourism and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the Kochi stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race and the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival, both in December, were two major tourism-related events which would take place in Kerala this year.
Kerala Tourism Secretary V Venu said the opening of the beautiful Malabar area of north Kerala to tourism will be among the highlights of the four-day Travel Mart.
More than 1,500 delegates, including 570 international buyers, have registered for the meet, which has over the years emerged as a key networking event for the tourism industry in India, Mr Najeeb said.
A total of 312 stalls will showcase unique tourism products from Kerala, including Ayurveda, medical tourism, home stays, houseboats and beach and mountain resorts.
Mr Kodiyeri Balakrishnan will inaugurate the stalls tomorrow morning.
Among the special events during the KTM would be a seminar organised by the External Affairs Ministry, focusing on tourism promotion efforts among the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) countries.
Two other seminars would be held on 'Responsible Tourism Initiative' and 'Rural Tourism.' 'Looking Beyond,' a book authored by renowned travel writers Hugh and Colleen Gantzer, would be released during the mart.
The valedictory function on September 23 would be presided over by Kerala Education and Culture Minister M A Baby.
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