In what has become a recurring theme over the years with the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) – the only tourism industry conclave in the country to showcase a single destination, the upcoming ninth edition of the biennial event is set to be the biggest and farthest-reaching yet.
As many as 57 countries besides 20 Indian states are now scheduled to participate in the three-day Mart, which is organised by the KTM Society in association with the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, and gets underway – perhaps aptly – on September 27, World Tourism Day, in Kochi.
But the numbers – while reflective of the KTM’s successful positioning as the single largest gathering of tourism stakeholders in the southern state – do not in themselves tell the whole story.
They do not reveal for instance that 10 countries will be represented at the Mart for the first time, with Mexico, Georgia, Japan, China, Chile, Greece, Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Botswana – markets as diverse as they are distant – all confirmed to participate. Nor that the 560 total international delegates registered for KTM 2016 features the biggest-ever contingents from 10 highly prized traditional markets, including the US, Canada and Australia.
“The KTM has always emphasised the consistent identification of quality buyers in ever newer territories as much as retaining participation from conventional markets. With representation from 10 new nations this year, our efforts have borne fruit,” said KTM Society President Shri Abraham George.
“Moreover, the increase in registrations from the conventional markets means KTM 2016 will have the largest number of delegates from these arenas in attendance ever. This was one of our stated goals going into this edition. That we have been able to deliver is further proof of the KTM’s growing profile,” he added.
Domestic participation too has seen an uptick, buoyed by aggressive marketing campaigns. Some 1,304 Indian buyers will participate this year – further ensuring that the array of products, services and packages on offer at the stalls of the around 261 registered sellers will find no dearth in takers.
The Mart’s centrepiece is the ‘Hosted Buyer programme’ – a unique platform for close-quarter B2B networking that allows buyers to hone in on the specific products that catch their fancy through pre-scheduled one-on-one sessions with exhibitors. Select buyers will even receive complimentary accommodation, local transfers, a post-mart FAM tour and participation at networking evenings.
“For KTM 2016, we have extended the prefixed appointment system to registered domestic buyers, which will help the business session be more effective for both the sellers and buyers. The focus is on emphasising quality of interactions,” said Shri George.
The Mart is expected to witness around 25,000 business meetings apart from other non-scheduled meetings.
To help sellers get the most of these interactions and maximise the potential for significant business linkages with international travel industry majors, the KTM Society has organised a number of workshops, imparting sales and marketing skills as also developing cross-cultural sensitivity among registered travel industry professionals and entrepreneurs from Kerala.
Businesses as varied as tour operators, hotels, resorts, home stays, houseboats, cultural art centres and Ayurveda resorts will find representation over 75,000 sq ft of prime air-conditioned space at the Samudrika and Sagara Convention Centre in Willingdon Island, Kochi.
Besides focusing on its core themes of ‘Responsible Tourism’ and ‘Muziris and Spice Route’, KTM 2016 will also project Kerala as the ideal breakaway destination for weddings and honeymoons – emerging segments for tourism destinations – with the stated aim of increasing the state’s tourism market share by an additional Rs 5,000 crore.
In a unique attempt to promote the ‘Muziris and Spice Route’ theme, UNESCO together with Kerala Tourism and the Union Tourism ministry will host a ‘Spice Route Culinary Festival’ from September 23-26, in which leading chefs from the 31 member countries on the historic Spice Route will participate. The event is organised as a prelude to the Mart.
KTM 2016 will run till September 30.