The setting and the ambience of the venue where Kerala Travel Mart, a tourism promotion event, is taking place, aptly depicts the social, cultural and traditional aspect of the state.
Right next to the entrance of Kerala Travel Mart, which is being held at Cochin Port Trust Convention Center at Wellingdon island, Vasudevan Pillai from Kulashekaramangalam Handloom Cooperative Society can be seen weaving on his handloom. Pillai, perhaps inadvertently, symbolises the whole buzz surrounding the event. Ahead of him, Indian and foreign delegates could be seen making a beeline for the expo stalls to weave rich and resilient business connections for Kerala tourism promotion.
Meet Monika Skiba, one of the delegates who flew all the way from Poland to attend the expo.
Monika gave up a career in public administration to establish herself in the hospitality industry. She had an insight that Kerala will prove to be a haven for the Polish tourists, but she couldn’t find the right contacts to set up base here. “And that’s when I came to know of Kerala Travel Mart (KTM),” Monika said.“Being a newcomer to the industry, it is challenging for me to set up a tourism business outside my country. I know the Polish are interested in travelling to Kerala, but to develop a base in an unknown market like here one needs to have strong ideas. You need to know what kind of products and hotels you are likely to get from the market. Thanks to the organisers of KTM, I got all these information, “ she said.
Over 1,500 delegates from countries such as Brazil, Argentina, UK and Switzerland are attending the expo. It is expected that these global players will form business tie ups with those in the Kerala tourism sector. These include the hotels, resorts, tour-operators, house boat operators and ayurveda resorts. According to both the ‘buyers’ and ‘sellers’, who attended the business meetings that are being held in stalls- here over 8,500 such meetings are being held per day, the expo has successfully served as a common platform where they can exchange ideas and create networks to boost the tourism business.
“It provided me with a first impression of the places and products to look out for in Kerala. I also got a channel of connections from Poland to Kerala which I can vouch for, thereby bettering tourism between the two lands,” said Monika.While this the opinion of the first timers to the expo, the regulars opined that the expo is getting better with each year. Unlike previous years, a lot of buzz is happening this year, said a travel agent of a prominent luxury hotel under condition of anonymity. “Serious business in happening,” she said.
KTM organisers have also tried out few innovative methods this year to ensure financial success of the huge logistical exercise.
The foreign delegates can’t skip stalls as an appointment list with specific time slots have been given to each delegate. They must make the appointment at the given time and sign the register at the stall when leaving. There was a lot of confusion in the last year’s event, but this year we know where the delegates are going, said Raji Menon, director of business development at leading travel agency ‘Travel XS’.