Kochi: The 'Queen of Arabian Sea' continues to be the most preferred destination of foreign tourists in the state. The Ernakulam district recorded a tourist arrival of 4.88 lakh footfalls in 2018, registering an increase of 7.53 per cent over the previous year, despite a vast region under it getting affected by the August floods.
The second preferred destination Thiruvananthapuram registered a foreign tourist arrival of 3.42 lakh last year, a drop from 4.20 lakh in 2017, as per district-wise statistics of foreign national arrivals released by the Tourism Department.The tourism authorities credit this to increased calling of luxury cruise liners with foreign tourists at Kochi port. Over 100 vessels with tourists anchored here in the just concluded tourist season, including the likes of world's largest cruise liners like 'Spectrum of the Seas', 'MSC Splendida', 'MV Queen Mary 2' and 'MV Boudicca'.
"It was a real challenge for us as most countries have issued travel advisories following the deluge. We initiated a series of measures to win back the faith of tourists," said a senior Tourism official.
Special reception for foreign tourists, that included performance of traditional arts, was arranged jointly by the Tourism department and the District Tourism Promotion Council for tourists at the Kochi port and the Cochin International airport. Programmes like bike rallies and car rallies from Kochi to Munnar were held to show that the roads were fully restored.
"The DTPC conducted 3,500 tours from November 13 to May 11 for foreign tourists with 60 per cent of them to Fort Kochi and Mattancherry region. We also provided capacity building training to 340 auto and taxi drivers on how to enhance the experience of tourists arriving here," the official said.While Alappuzha and Idukki districts recorded tourist arrival footfalls of 95, 522 and 44, 833 respectively, the least foreign tourist arrival was in Palakkad (1953) and Pathanamthitta (1967).
The total foreign tourist arrival in the state last year was 10.96 lakh as against 10.91 lakh in 2017. Foreign tourists arrivals registered a negative growth in months of August and September (-18.46 and -18.16 respectively) when the state was affected by deluge.