Thiruvananthapuram: Thekkady has been named the world's top emerging destination at the inaugural Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) CEO Challenge 2015 along with Albay in the Philippines. The destination in 'God's Own Country', which is home to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, bagged the top destination award in the second and third-tier cities category, the only category for cities.
Albay received the honour in the category for regions, states and provinces. The award, instituted by PATA, was announced in Bangkok. Thekkady and Albay beat a large number of destinations from around the world to win the award. The PATA CEO Challenge is aimed at utilising the 500,000-dollar award purse to develop and create a digital marketing campaign to showcase the destination to a global audience. "It is a huge honour to be named world's top destination. It is a proud moment for our state," said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar. "The award will only increase our commitment to work further towards the growth of tourism in Kerala and development of our communities and the livelihoods of our people while preserving our environment," he said.
The award will be presented at a gala ceremony on the occasion of the PATA Aligned Advocacy dinner in London on November 2, the opening day of the World Travel Mart in the British capital. A host of travel and tourism industry leaders will be present at the event where United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary General Taleb Rifai is scheduled to be the guest of honour.
"The top global tourism award is recognition of our pioneering efforts in creating a harmony between our distinguished visitors and our nature-endowed destinations," said Kerala Tourism Secretary Kamala Vardhana Rao. "While we develop our destinations like Thekkady with new tourism products to present a once-in-lifetime experience to the discerning global travellers, we also have to create a viable technological model for disseminating information worldwide," Rao added.
Kerala Tourism Director Shri P I Sheik Pareeth said the award was the result of a fruitful partnership public-private partnership, involving the local communities. "Our new products like Village Life Experience will firmly establish our state as a global tourism leader," Shri Pareeth added.
PATA CEO Challenge 2015 aims to promote and enhance the number of visitors to emerging destinations and enhance tourism development in a sustainable manner. Kerala Tourism will receive free stand space at the PATA Travel Mart 2016 in Jakarta during September 7-9 next year and invitation to the PATA Annual Summit in Guam, United States in May 2016.
(With input from Agencies)