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Aussies already discovering Kerala
Thursday 30 October 2008

Incredible India is showcasing Kerala in Sydney and Melbourne this week, and highlighting the fact that Australians are already discovering this destination renowned for its wellness and nature travel.
 
With over 14,000 Australians recorded in Kerala in 2007, Australia is the destination's seventh largest source market, and one of the fastest growing averaging 20% a year, and jumping a whopping 160% in 2007 when compared to 2002.
 
So to teach agents how to better sell the destination a contingent of 13 tourism delegates have come down to Australia on the third Kerala tradeshow in Sydney, and its first ever showing in Melbourne.
 
"We offer unique experiences, we are also driven by small businesses and we constantly innovate to put new products on the market," said Vasudevan Venu, Government of Kerala Secretary for Tourism.
 
"If you ask me about the number of hotels in Kerala which have more than 100 rooms, I can count them on the fingers of one hand, the Kerala experience as far as hotels are concerned is about boutique, small operators.
 
"Unique offerings like houseboats have become iconic to the Kerala visitor experience... we have a business model firmly rooted in the native culture," he adds.
 
Speaking to e-Travel Blackboard, he adds that for Kerala a growth of less than 20% this year in Australia visitors will be seen as a failure.
 
"Anything less than 20% growth from the Australian market [17,000 to 18,000 arrivals] should be taken as failure.  We have very high standards... But having said that, there's a caveat there, and that's the economy," says Dr Venu.
 
"If it's not as bleak as everyone's predicting, we should reach those numbers," he continues.  "The Australian visitor also stays for a week, and combines a Kerala visit with another region close."
 
"Australians see Kerala as a leisure destination– there to relax, as it's not a very activity orientated destination which is also why the market tends to be older... our wellness sector is carving a niche for itself, and we're discovering that this market is quite resilient as well."
 
The roadshow partners with Singapore Airlines to also highlight the ease of travelling to Kerala, with a transit in Singapore Australians can fly direct to three airports in the Kerala state.
"Singapore Airlines see Kerala as a soft entry point for India, what we find is that most India programs concentrate on the north... and our intuition tells us that north India is a lot harder to access, because of a lack of infrastructure, roads are busy, and there's more poverty," says Dale Woodhouse, Singapore Airlines Manager Passenger Marketing Australia, to e-Travel Blackboard.
 
"Kerala is more akin to an experience that most people have had in South East Asia... so it's a softer point of entry for people to go in and experience that beautiful part of India and then think 'well wouldn't it be nice to expand from here?'"
 
So confident is Singapore Airlines about the India experience for Australian travellers, Mr Woodhouse revealed that they are currently working actively with wholesalers in Australia who launched dedicated India brochures to really push wholesale leisure traffic to India.
 
Offering very special fares to these wholesalers who sign up, there will then be a joint marketing fund to promote travel together.  This initiative is set to be launched officially shortly.
 
"We have already had some wholesalers come on board," he comments.  "And we're in talks with others."
At the end of the event, one lucky winner won a five night holiday for two to Kerala flying with Singapore airlines.

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