Kerala is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Asia thanks to its unique geographical features and an equable climate.
Serene beaches, tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters, lush hill stations, exotic wildlife... all these beauties of nature attract tourists in scores to the Indian state year after year. Enchanting art forms, magical festivals and heritage sites make Kerala a traveller’s paradise. Kerala appeals to tourists for a number of other reasons as well: hospitable and highly-literate people, world-class healthcare systems and the cleanest state in the country.
Even centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, Kerala had travel, trade and economic relations with the Middle East. Arabs were the first foreigners to know about the rich spice source of Kerala. Historic records reveal that Arab traders visited Kerala for spices, teakwood, ivory and other valuable goods in the early centuries. Spices such as pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and sandal wood were largely exported from the spice centres in Cochin to Arab nations.
Tourists from the UAE are among the highest-spending travellers abroad from the Gulf with majority of its population in the higher income group. They normally go on holiday in the harsh summer season when the mercury soars above 50° Celsius. Unlike the previously favoured destinations in the West, the new Arab travellers now prefer to spend their holidays in Asia, India being one of the favourite destinations.
“After Saudi Arabia, the UAE is one of the biggest markets for outbound tourists in the Gulf region. We want to invite travellers from the UAE to Kerala’s world renowned tourism destinations,” said Kerala Tourism Minister A.P. Anil Kumar.
“Kerala and Gulf countries have enjoyed historical and traditional ties. Kerala is a natural destination for tourists from the Gulf.” he added.
The Gulf region recorded more than nine million outbound tourists in 2011 and the figure is likely to touch 35 million by 2020. And the UAE emerged to be a major market for Kerala tourism in the last two years. In 2010, 15,684 tourists from the UAE visited Kerala. The figure crossed 15,000 in 2011 as well registering a steady flow of tourists both the years.
Other countries, which are joining the tourism bandwagon, are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. India is among the major destinations sought after by the Arab tourists, aside from the UK, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
“We are looking forward to a spurt in foreign tourist arrivals in Kerala in the coming years. The Gulf is a very important market for us because there is a lot of scope for Arab tourists to come to Kerala,” said Suman Billa, Kerala Tourism Secretary.
Tourists from world over visit the state to soak in a variety of exclusive experiences. Ayurveda, backwaters, houseboats and hill stations are on top of their list. Hailed as the land of Ayurveda, Kerala offers authentic Ayurvedic treatment for both cure and rejuvenation. The monsoon season is the perfect time to undergo Ayurvedic rejuvenation therapies. Backwaters in Kerala is an another major tourist attraction. Boat trips across these scintillating water stretches are an experience unique to Kerala. Large Kettuvalloms have been converted into luxury boats for these trips. Kerala has a long chain of lush hill stations that are home to exotic wildlife. All the hill resorts in Kerala offer magical experience of nature in its virgin beauty.
Kerala’s monsoon tourism and Ayurveda are already drawing a number of travellers from Gulf. Health and wellness holidays are a major segment of outbound travel from Arab nations, a factor Kerala tourism is keen to leverage in its favour. The UAE’s proximity to Kerala and good air connectivity are the other factors in favour of the Indian state.