First there was the Nipa(h),
The Pani was the next Pain
And I will take liberties with anagrams to say –
But Kerala is h’apin’ning again !!!
(my rhyme may be cheesy but my story is not :-D)
The (so called) Bat fever (nipah) battle of May/June 2018 followed by the infamous Deluge of disastrous proportions with the flood waters (pani) of July 2018, would have been enough to vanquish the spirit of most lands. But the Keralites are no ordinary people and the extraordinary caliber, remarkable resilience and disciplined determination that they have displayed, has played a great role in aiding a rapid recovery.
Kerala, the tiny sliver of a state on the South West coast of India, labels itself as God’s own country and its diverse topography has always been a tourist’s paradise.
Since tourism plays such a major role in boosting the state’s economy, there arose a need to have a mechanism to enable the promotion of tourism in the state. Thus in the mid 90’s, was born the Kerala Travel Mart Society.
The Society acts as the spokesman on behalf of Kerala’s tourism industry and apart from other activities related to promoting the cause, it also organizes and conducts the biennial Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) which is one of the largest exhibitions in India, showcasing tourism products. The first of these marts was held in the year 2000.
I was privileged to be a media invitee at the recently held KTM2018 from Sep 27th-30th at the Samudrika and Sagara Convention center, Cochin, Kerala, India.
Read on to experience the 10th edition of the mart, KTM2018 … through my eyes and experiences.
About the Kerala Travel Mart Society –
The KTM Society is the largest tourism body in the state and it is composed of over 700 members that hail from various tourism based categories like hotels, resorts, tour operators, travel agents, houseboats, homestays, airlines, event companies, tourism associations and also the Kerala state tourism department.
It has an elected governing body comprising of 18 management committee members and 3 members from the government. This 21 member management committee is headed by the President of the society.
The main goal of the KTM is to market Kerala by showcasing the products of its various members via exhibitions.
Tour operators and media partners are invited to the mart both from India and internationally.
Pre and post event Fam(iliarization) trips are arranged by the KTM for media as well as buyers and they are given an up close and personal interaction with the products and destinations that they will sell through their words and their travel companies respectively.
Another very important facet of the KTM, is to emphasize on environmentally sustainable tourism and also to work for the betterment of the local communities.
With the mantra of Responsible tourism, a 9 point charter was constituted during the 9th edition of the KTM in 2016, which has been adopted by all the its members and they exhibit and implement this agenda in their respective establishments. The points are as per CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) guidelines with a similar goal of betterment of society and environmental protection. KTM believes that there is no tourism without the community and the 9 point plan pledges to support the local society. The details are on the picture.
The 10th edition of KTM has constituted a separate trust called the KTM foundation and its role is to implement this 9 point agenda and to undertake CSR activities.
The 10th edition, the KTM2018 –
The 10th edition of the KTM has been the biggest so far, with 590 tour operators from 66 countries and also 1090 Indian buyers interacting with 313 exhibitors who range right from homestays to giant hotel chains. 36 members of both national and international media covered the event and also experienced the pre event fam trip. Nearly 400 buyers registered for the post event fam trip.
Pre event Fam trips –
In order to optimally showcase the features that Kerala has to offer, there were 4 Fam trips that were organized for the media, prior to the exhibition. Each group was to be accompanied by a specialized tour assistant who would escort the group throughout the trip.
The routes attempted to cover varied topography, destinations and wellness experiences and comprised of the following options –
1. Focus on Cultural, wildlife, hills –
Cochin – Guruvayoor – Calicut – Wayanad – Calicut – Cheruthuruthy – Cochin
2. Ayurvedic experiences –
Cochin – Thrissur – Palakkad – Guruvayoor – Cochin
3. Focus on Backwaters and houseboat cruises, village life, hills and wildlife –
Cochin – Kumarakom – Thekkady – Alleppey – Cochin
4. Adventure theme Park, beaches, backwaters, houseboat day cruise –
Cochin – Jatayupara – Kovalam – Varkala – Kollam – Alleppey – Cochin
My experience at the KTM2018 –
Sep 22nd, 2018 – Media orientation session –
I was a guest of the KTM as a part of the media and the opening event was an inaugural session and grand dinner at the luxurious Taj Malabar Spa and Resort on Willingdon island.
This island is said to be the largest artificial island in the country and has been created by reclaiming land from the Kochi lake. It also houses the Cochin Port trust.
The Taj Malabar on Willingdon island, is poised right on the edge of the harbor with the backwater alongside its borders. With an architecture that is an amalgam of the colonial as well as traditional Kerala, this hotel offers pleasing aesthetics and an aura of splendor.
This 5 star resort features a popular spa, swimming pool, gym and business center. There are various categories of rooms located in both the heritage and tower wing and they include harbor view, sea view and Premium sunset view rooms that true to their names, offer spectacular vistas.
The resort also boasts of 6 dining options including the Rice boat which serves the finest of seafood and the al fresco Dolphin’s Point from where if one is very lucky, one can spot dolphins bobbing about in the backwaters.
We the media, attended the orientation session where the President of the KTM, Mr Baby Mathew and other distinguished members addressed the gathering and briefed us about the working of the KTM, what it stood for and what the objective of the KTM2018 was to be, mentioning that the focus this year was on Malabar tourism emphasizing on developing that region to attract tourists. The opening of Kerala’s 4th International airport in Kannur in this region of North Kerala, will create another gateway that is expected to facilitate a greater influx of visitors to the areas including Bekal, Thalaserry and Wayanad .
The session was followed by a dinner on the lawns of the hotel, featuring fine dishes from global as well as local Kerala cuisine. The live band called 3 Ounce, playing retro hindi and english music kept the crowd entertained with their melodies which were interspersed with the gentle swishing sounds of the water of the Kochi lake, lapping against the banks.
The next few days were spent on the Fam trip, details are available on individual posts.
Sep 27th – Inauguration of the KTM2018 at Hyatt
On the 27th morning, we returned to Cochin from the Abad Turtle Beach resort, Marari beach. The 45 km distance took a little over an hour to cover.
The formal inauguration of the KTM2018 took place in the evening at the Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Center that adjoins the Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty and is managed by the Hyatt group.
The convention center is spread across a gigantic 10 lakh (1 million) sq ft and is said to be the largest of its kind in India. It can accommodate 10,000 people, has 3 helipads and can park over 1500 vehicles.
The Grand Hyatt itself is a premium waterfront resort that rises imposingly out of the Bolgatty island and offers a selection of lavishly appointed rooms, suites and even villas, spread across 26 acres of the island, with stunning views of the surrounding waters and beyond.
The evening began with welcoming the guests at the entrance with traditional drumbeats and local dances.
The stage was set for a series of cultural performances that depicted the essence of Kerala.
The audience was then addressed by inspiring speeches by the Chief Minister Shri Pinyari Vijayan, K J Alphons, Union Minister of State (I/C) for Tourism, Rani George, Tourism Secretary, Kerala and other dignitaries and the emphasis was to present a renewed Kerala that had emerged fighting from the floods and was on its way to reignite and resume its program on responsible tourism.
The inaugural session was followed by a sumptuous and lavish dinner that served cuisines from several countries along with a section dedicated to showcasing the best of Kerala cuisine. Live bands and free flowing spirits added to the exhilaration of the night.
Sep 28th – Day 1 of the KTM2018 at Samudrika and Sagara Convention Center, Willingdon Island
The actual Travel Mart was formally declared open on Fri Sep 28th at the same venue as the previous KTM. The Samudrika and Sagara Convention center is located within the premises of the Cochin Port Trust close to the backwaters of Willingdon island and is available as a venue for large gatherings personal as well as official.
Visitors were greeted at the entrance of the Mart by glimpses of rural Kerala in the form of models of mud houses, farmers operating water wheels, weaving, boating in the back waters etc.
This was followed by the section with the registration counters, which then led to the stalls.
The layout was organized into 5 blocks, A to E and the stalls were laid out in 3 rows across the longitudinal strip of the convention center, finally leading to the food court which served both local and global cuisine.
The washroom facilities were reasonably well maintained.
The event was marked by various seminars and also meetings between hundreds of sellers and buyers, both International and Indian and the venue was a buzzing hub of activity marking potential businesses and tourism associations.
A few glimpses of the event can be viewed in the pictures.
There were also a few new products that were launched, including the Jatayu project featuring the world’s largest bird sculpture atop a hill and helicopter rides from Chipsan aviation that provide a bird’s eye view (or in this case literally the entire bird’s view 😀 ).
Also among the new offerings, is the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation’s (KTDC) new and affordable initiative ‘Kerala on wheels’, that provides packages that cover various destinations of Kerala in one go, via the KTDC properties located in different parts of the State.
The first two days of the KTM were only for registered participants but the last day was thrown open to the public.
Networking dinner at Crowne Plaza –
The day ended with a gala dinner hosted at the Crowne plaza Kochi, an upscale 5 star waterfront hotel with posh facilities for both leisure and business travellers.
Live bands set the tempo for the night and not even the ensuing showers could dampen spirits of the mini world comprising of international and Indian guests.
Memories were penned down in the form of feedback on the white board, as guests left for the night.
I left the next day but the KTM continued for the next 2 days culminating with the Valedictory ceremony on Sun Sep 30th, 2018.
KTM contacts –
On this trip I was hosted by the Kerala Travel Mart Society and partnering hotels, as a media invitee and I thank them for the hospitality. My narration is based on the inputs I received from various sources as well as my personal experiences.
For more pictures see My Facebook – Kerala Travel Mart KTM2018-An Overview. Also catch me on My Twitter and My Instagram
Sep 22nd-29th, 2018