Kerala tourism drops green fears; unrolls red carpet for films

By: | Updated: May 3, 2015 12:36 AM

Not just Bollywood, but all film initatives across India are welcome to shoot in the Kerala.

Aishwarya Rai swaying to a romantic number in the quicksilver backdrop of Athirapilly waterfalls in the 2010 Mani Ratnam thriller Raavan had created quite a splash, on the controversy front too, when the Kerala government disrupted shooting of the movie in the wild elephant terrain of the forest area. That was then.

Reeling under a tough excise policy, Kerala tourism, however, sings a different tune now. “Not just Bollywood, but all film initatives across India are welcome to shoot in the state, taking up the invitation in the ongoing ‘Visit Kerala’ campaign,” says state tourism minister AP Anil Kumar.

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“Through the Visit Kerala programme, visitors would be entitled to discount packages in airfares, accommodation and travel that the state has facilitated with tour operators and hospitality-providers,” he had said recently.

“Kerala government has invited film industries across India to shoot in the state so that it can promote the state’s picturesque tourist hotspots through movies. The collaboration is envisaged to be fruitful for both industries,” says PI Sheikh Pareeth, director, Kerala Tourism.

On scepticism from the film industry over the state’s green concerns, he admitted that Kerala did clamp some restrictions on filming in some areas that are ecologically or archeologically sensitive. But Anil Kumar can see a solution. “Most of these areas managed by forest, cultural, archeological and irrigation departments. It is possible to discuss the utilisation of these locations, with sensitivity and care, with the respective authorities,” he says.

Tourism makes up one-fifth of Kerala government’s revenues, clocking R24,000 crore business in 2013-2014 compared to R22,000 crore in the previous year.

“After the new liquor policy that has led to a shutdown of bars in all hotels other than five-star category, the tourism business has been concerned over growth in MICE ( Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) tourism,” says EM Najeeb, a tour operator in Kerala. “This has necessitated new initiatives like Visit Kerala Year and tie-ups with film industry to sustain inflow of tourists,” he adds.

Steffi Graf, Shah Rukh Khan to promote Kerala?

Kerala is likely to rope in tennis legend Steffi Graf and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan to promote the God’s Own Country brand.

“We have had preliminary discussions with Steffi Graf and Shah Rukh Khan on championing the Kerala tourism brand. However, crucial factors of the contract, like fees, are yet to be finalised,” sources in Kerala tourism ministry told FE.

Steffi Graf is being counted upon to emerge as the mascot of Kerala Ayurveda’s rejuvenation therapy. By roping in Graf, Kerala also hopes to increase German travellers’ fascination for Ayurveda treatment. Already, about one-third of Kerala’s one million international tourists per year are from European countries like Germany, Switzerland and United Kingdom. Ayurvedic rejuvenation treatment, which calls for more than a week’s stay at the wellness centre, also ensures longer stay of international tourists in the host country.

The pitch for Shah Rukh Khan is almost a spontaneous continuation of the strategy of holding on to its captive clientele of domestic tourists from Indian metros. Some time ago, the state’s attempt to bring in Amitabh Bachchan as brand ambassador had not worked out. Instead, Gujarat had grabbed Big B’s services.

Much would depend on the compensation the big names would demand, but for cash-strapped Kerala government, the stakes are already high.

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