Kerala woos honeymooners

SINGAPORE, 13 December 2019: Kerala State on the southwest Malabar coast of India recently bagged the Best Honeymoon Destination award in domestic rankings presented by Travel and Leisure India, but state tourism officials are hoping its success will spill over into Southeast Asia,

Commenting on the accolade from T&L India the state’s ministry of tourism, Kadakampally Surendran said: “This is a rousing endorsement will increase the footfall in the state through a string of new offerings to young people.

“Of late, we have launched initiatives to provide adventurous treks and activities to broaden our tourism portfolio. This award will go a long way to supporting our efforts.”

Bali, Phuket and the Maldives are the top honeymoon choices for Asian couples who have the cash to buy luxury holidays. Kerala is playing catch up to join the three honeymoon stars with new top-off-the-line honeymoon packages featuring three destinations at starting prices below USD1,000 for a couple including hotels, tours, transfers and the tinsel and trimmings linked to the honeymoon celebrations covering five days.

Cochin airport in Kochi city is the gateway point, but the popular honeymoon packages feature a stay in pool villas in the hill station town of Munnar 1,600 metres above sea levels, an overnight in Thekkady home to a tiger and wildlife reserve and conclude with a houseboat stay in Alleppey.

The big price item remains the airfares, and we quickly discovered that if the Asian honeymooners live in a city that has no direct flights to Cochin flight times are longer than a trip to Dubai.  The time spent flying is within striking distance of a trip to Paris, the fairytale city for romantic holidays.

Kerala’s efforts to appeal to honeymoon couples in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok will depend on just that; direct flights coupled with attractive fares. Once on land in Cochin airport, Kerala’s honeymoon package prices and content are competitive.

Kuala Lumpur has the best selection of direct flights to Cochin. Air Asia leads with a roundtrip fare of USD123 during March 2020. Flight time to Cochin is around four hours. The nearest deal on Malaysia Airlines is USD185. Skyscanner suggests fare on the route average USD148 roundtrip.

Out of Bangkok, the roundtrip fare goes as low as USD202 on Thai AirAsia, but direct flights are available only on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That could change any time as Thai AirAsia is notorious for cancelling services without much warning if they underperform. When the holiday dates fall on a day when there is no direct flight the trip involves a change of plane in Kuala Lumpur and the flight time increases from four hours and 15 minutes to as high as nine hours.

Honeymooners are in luck if they reside in Singapore. They can fly in style with Singapore Airlines direct to Cochin for USD217. Silk Air for reasons known only to itself quotes a fare of USD249 on the same flight operated by mother SQ. Flight time is four hours and 15 minutes but if you opt for a one-stop service via Kuala Lumpur the flight time rises to seven hours and 15 minutes.

Kerala Tourism is currently making a marketing push to showcase its honeymoon holiday content in thriving markets such as China, Singapore and Japan during the last quarter of the year.

In China, it involved roadshows in Shanghai and Beijing attended by 84 buyers and representatives of prominent media outlets.

“China is an important emerging market for Kerala Tourism.  In just two decades, it has become the world’s largest outbound travel market, with some 145 million Chinese travellers visiting abroad in 2017,” said, Kerala’s  Minister of  Tourism.

Last year, 9,630 tourists from China visited Kerala compared to 7,113 in 2017, a 35% increase.

Kerala has become the first Indian state to partner with the ‘China Ready’ programme, which has already been conducted in 48 countries, to increase tourism footfall from China. A destination audit from a Chinese tourist’s perspective to ascertain the attractiveness of the destination has also commenced in Alappuzha, Thekkady, Munnar and Kochi.

In Singapore, Kerala Tourism has introduced a three-minute campaign video to appeal to both high spenders and backpackers.

Singapore, a leading market for Kerala in terms of tourist arrivals, generated 9,460 tourists to the state in 2018.

Kerala Tourism has also participated in Tourism Expo Japan, organised for the first time in Osaka. The event attracted more than 225,000 visitors and representatives of over 1,000 businesses from 130 countries. The co-exhibitors from Kerala held meetings with tour operators and media from Japan to create awareness about the state. As part of the promotional activities, a roadshow was organised in Tokyo.

In 2018, Kerala’s backwaters and Ayurveda had attracted 15,665 tourists from Japan, representing a 17% increase over the previous year.

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