Thiruvananthapuram: Bouncing back after two devastating floods, Kerala recorded the highest growth rate in domestic and total tourist arrivals in 24 years, attracting around 1.96 crore domestic and foreign visitors in 2019, registering a growth of 17.2%.
The total earnings from tourism stood at Rs 45,010.69 crore, notching a robust 24.14% increase compared with the previous year.
The total tourist arrivals touched over 1.95 crore, which included 1.83 crore domestic visitors and 11.89 lakh guests from abroad, a press release said.
In 2018, the number of tourists visiting Kerala was 1.67 crore (domestic tourists 1.56 crore and foreign tourists 10.96 lakh).
The growth rate in the inflow of domestic tourists was 17.81% while for the foreign tourist arrivals, it was 8.52%.
"We have bounced back with great vigour after suffering unprecedented floods and torrential rains for two consecutive years in 2018 and 2019. This is the highest growth rate since 1996.
Our figures show that there was a very significant increase in the footfalls from May 2019 and it prevailed till the end of the year," an elated Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said.
"We are optimistic about sustaining the growth momentum this year also but it will depend on how quickly the world finds a solution to the problem of Coronavirus outbreak," he added.
Of the 14 districts, Ernakulam attracted the largest number of tourists (45,82,366), followed by Thiruvananthapuram (33,48,618), Thrissur (25,99,248) and Idukki (18,95,422).
In terms of statistics, Kerala registered an increase of 27.8 lakh domestic tourists as compared to the previous year.
Of this rise, Ernakulam district recorded 6.13 lakh, Idukki 5.62 lakh, Thiruvananthapuram 3.25 lakh, Wayanad 2.55 lakh and Kozhikode 2.52 lakh, which were the significant gainers during this period.
Further, the number of increase in international tourists was 93,364 compared to a year earlier, of which Ernakulam accounted for 34,057, Idukki 30,373 and Alapuzzha 20,706 -- the three districts with significant gains.
The total foreign exchange earnings (FEE) from tourism crossed Rs 10,000 crore for the first time, touching a figure of Rs 10,271.06 crore and registering a growth of 17.19% over the previous year.
Ernakulam alone generated Rs 4,508.32 crore of the FEE, accounting for 43.9% of the total foreign exchange earnings from tourism sector.
It was followed by Thiruvananthapuram (Rs 2,680.06 crore) and Alappuzha (Rs 1,003.37 crore).
In terms of total revenue earned from the tourism sector, Ernakulam topped with Rs 12,816.54 crore, followed by Thiruvananthapuram (Rs 8,700.12 crore), Thrissur (Rs 4,646.08 crore) and Idukki (Rs 3,984.4 crore).
Tourism Secretary Rani George said the huge growth in tourist arrivals in the face of most adverse circumstances was achieved by an aggressive, multi-pronged strategy to woo back the visitors.
"We allayed the apprehensions of visitors by holding roadshows in our traditional and emerging markets.
An important component of the roadshows was a three- minute video film, 'Human by Nature,' our latest brand campaign that showed the state in a new light by creating symmetry between its people and natural beauty.
The upsurge in tourist arrivals is a testament to the resilience and vibrancy of tourism sector of the state," she added.
"We were able to overcome the horrendous consequences of unprecedented floods in double-quick time.
The damaged infrastructure was repaired swiftly, and we were able to send out a strong message to tourists across the globe that Kerala is ready to embrace them with its famed hospitality and charm," Tourism Director, P Bala Kiran said.
He also attributed the growth to a string of new tourism products, especially the Champions Boat League (CBL), saying it had the potential to transform Kerala into a 365-day destination.