Tourist arrivals surge in Kerala, officials credit reversal of liquor policy
Bengaluru: Tourist arrivals in Kerala grew 10.93% in 2017 from the previous year, the highest in nine years, a development officials credit to the reversal of a policy that restricted liquor sales.
The previous Congress-led government had initiated a phased liquor ban in Kerala starting in 2014, shutting bars and refusing to issue fresh liquor licences. The Left Front that came to power in 2016 revamped this policy in June 2017, providing licences to three-star and five-star hotels to serve alcohol and allowing bars to reopen.
“The industry is upbeat after that (policy reversal),” said P. Bala Kiran, director, tourism department in Kerala, over the phone. It was on a decline, now it’s surging ahead, he said.
“The reversal of the liquor policy seems to have made an impact. The negativity about Kerala tourism (in relation to the non-availability of the liquor in hotels and other places) has gone,” he said.
According to his department, the liquor policy severely hit tourism, an important contributor to the state’s economy.
Between 2013 and 2016, the tourism growth rate in Kerala declined from 7.78% to 5.71%, as per statistics provided by the department. This translated to an annual loss upwards of Rs2,000 crore in the so-called MICE sector (meetings, incentives, conferences, conventions, exhibitions, and events), said V. Venu, principal secretary, tourism, in an earlier interview.
About 14.5 million tourists visited the state in 2017, up from 13.1 million in 2016 and the highest in nine years, pushing the total revenue from Rs29,658.56 crore to Rs33,383.68 crore during the same period.
Bala Kiran said growth would have been even higher, had it not been for the disruptions in the market in the form of a hike in hotel prices among others, due to the rollout of the goods and services tax.