Kochi: The Kerala tourism industry, which had been battered by the 2018 and 2019 floods and is currently in tatters following the coronavirus outbreak, has a reason to smile in immediate future.
When the COVID-19 pandemic finally ends, the state is poised to witness an influx of domestic tourists from other parts of the country. Kerala is gearing up to start a publicity campaign on the assumption that people in major cities across the country who couldn't travel to foreign countries would choose the state as their travel destination.
Presently, close to 95 per cent of hotels and resorts in the state had downed their shutters due to the restrictions imposed following the spread of the contagious coronavirus. The hotels, including five-star ones, that are open have only 10 per cent occupancy. The restaurants of these hotels are closed and food is served only to guests staying at these facilities. But the expectation is that the current situation would change by May end and tourists from north India would start flowing into Kerala as European countries such as the UK, France, Italy and Spain, and nations like Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, where the north Indian travellers would ideally visit during summer, have closed their borders due to the COVID-19 scare.
The travel restrictions to European countries are in place till September 30 and similar curbs in Singapore and Malaysia will be lifted by June 30.
The annual footfall of foreign tourists in Kerala is nearly 11 lakh, which is around 4 percent of the total foreign travellers coming to India. As per the numbers of last calendar year, about 1.83 crore domestic tourists visited Kerala out of which 62 per cent are local people and the remaining 38 percent (70 lakh) are travellers from other states. This is just one percent of the total domestic tourists in the country.
But the number of outbound tourists, people travelling from India to other countries, stood at 3.25 crore last year. A major chunk of these travellers could be brought to Kerala as presently foreign travel is restricted.
In 2019, there was a spike of 17.3 percent in the number of travellers coming to the state compared to previous years. With coronavirus wreaking havoc in foreign countries, including the UK, less number of tourists is expected from these places.
Kerala tourism director Bala Kiran said that the state was gearing up for a campaign to attract more domestic tourists to 'God's own country'.