By Ashraf Padanna/Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala has won laurels for its innovative initiatives like responsible tourism, a coffee table book on the Spice Route, a crafts village and a mobile app at the national tourism awards 2014-15.
Madhya Pradesh was adjudged the best state in comprehensive development followed by Gujarat and Karnataka while Kerala walked away with the highest number of awards (12) in a variety of categories distributed by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan in New Delhi on Saturday night.
Kerala received three out of the six awards in the marketing category for states and two more, including the one for its responsible tourism (RT) initiative in the hilly district of Wayanad that has transformed its economy through the intensive participation of the local community.
It shared the RT award with Yes Bank’s Edge of India initiative in New Delhi, which focuses on developing cooperative tourism models to ensure livelihood security of local communities.
Hoteliers, tour operators and an Ayurveda Centre won seven more, including the best hotel in the five-star category and the best heritage hotel. Sargaalaya Arts and Crafts Village at Iringal, a small village in Kozhikode district, fetched the award in the rural tourism project category.
Dr Venu V, the principal secretary of the state’s tourism ministry, said in a statement here yesterday that winning five national tourism awards and seven for private players was a tremendous feat.
“It’s a recognition of our pioneering measures, especially our cutting edge marketing techniques and leveraging of technology, to position Kerala as a tourist-friendly destination,” said the senior bureaucrat associated with the tourism saga of the God’s Own Country, as its brochures describe itself, for two decades.
The national awards come soon after it won two Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold Awards for its marketing initiatives.
Kerala and the Spice Routes, a glossy coffee-table book that provides a sneak-peek on the rich multiculturalism of the state more than two millennia ago when its spice trade was flourishing won the award for excellence in publishing in English.
The Great Backwaters, a brochure in German, was adjudged for the award in other foreign languages segment.
The award in ‘Tourism Promotion and Publishing’ category (shared with Gujarat) came for its most innovative use of information technology for its website and social media campaign. Kerala Tourism has 1.28mn followers on the Facebook, the largest for any Indian tourism board.
Stephanie Pearson of the USA received the award for the best foreign journalist for her feature on Kerala titled The Green Heaven.
Other winners that went to Kerala are Turtle on the Beach Kovalam (best five-star hotel), Coconut Lagoon Kumarakom (heritage hotel), Coconut Creek Farm and Homestay Kumarakom (bed and breakfast), Somatheeram Trivandrum (wellness), Lotus Destinations (tour operator promoting niche Segments), Kalypso Adventures (inbound tour operator) and Dravidian Trails (third best inbound tour operator).
Kerala received 977,479 foreign tourists last year, an increase of 5.86% over the previous year’s 923,366 despite a global slowdown.
The domestic tourist arrivals were recorded at 12,465,571 as against 11,695,411 of the preceding year with an increase of 6.59%.
The foreign exchange earnings in 2015 were Rs69.5bn, an increase of 8.61% over the previous year and the total revenue increased by 7.25% to record Rs266.8963bn.
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