THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Traditionally, with the start of the off-season, it is usual for the top honchos of the Tourism Department to behave like dynamic industry leaders who find their products losing their competitive edge: they think up weird out-of-the-box ideas hoping something might work. ‘Rain Walk’, ‘Dream Season’, the ‘Delightful Twist’ campaign, ‘Romancing the Rains’ are some of the innovations tried by the Department to lure travelers to the state’s shores during the long seven-month off-season beginning March. Almost all the tricks had fallen flat but the Department has never stopped trying.
That is, until this year. “Normally, off-season plans are unveiled in March. But we are already in the last week of April and the Department is uncharacteristically silent,” a top industry insider said. Tourism principal secretary is circumspect in his response, but agrees. “We are in troubled times. But we will soon roll out something,” he said. By troubled times he meant the uncertainty over the excise policy, which the Department had consistently argued was hurting tourism. “Perhaps, the Department is waiting for the government to change the UDF policy,” the tourism insider said.
‘Dream Season’ was the first major attempt to lure domestic tourists in a big way. It was a discount strategy, which essentially asked the industry to offer competitive rates. When it was found that the strategy had robbed the state of its pricey aura, without providing it with any significant increase in numbers, the Department came up with the ‘Delightful Twist’ campaign. This again was a ‘cheap option’ strategy, but subtle. Here they asked travelers to put up their itinerary on Facebook and told the service providers, a highly competitive lot, to compete for the traveller’s favour.
Prices automatically came down without the government having to plead. Before the ‘Delightful Twist’ campaign there was another twist. The Department used the southwest monsoon, an off-season phenomenon it had never dared sell, as its USP. Events like ‘rain walks’ and exotic packages for lovers of all ages were dreamed up. They tried it twice, in 2011 and 2014, and both times had nothing much to crow about in terms of tourist numbers....