Kerala may no longer be foreigners’ top favourite tourist destination if the figures by the tourism department are anything to go by. A recent study by the department shows a fall in the foreign tourist arrivals and all stakeholders have the state’s liquor policy to blame. The Trade Research 2016 which compiled data from the Kerala Tourism Statistics and Economic Review of 2015, shows that the tourism growth rate fell from8.1 percent in 2013 to 7.6 percent in 2014 and 5.9 percent in 2015.
“Previous government’s liquor policy has pulled the growth of tourism industry backwards,” said Tourism Minister AC Moideen.
The Congress led UDF government had refused fresh licenses to 418 bars in April 2014 and decided to shut the then operating 312 non five star category bars. In April 2015, the Kerala High Court upheld the government’s liquor policy which led to the shutdown of all non five star category bars. Only 24 five star hotels are allowed to serve liquor.Following this, the report states, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition (MICE) have also been taken outside the state. The growth rate of tourism in Kerala which was above the national average, fell below that in 2014. While the national average was 10.2%, foreign tourist arrivals in Kerala grew only by 7.6 percent.
The biggest factor affecting tourism arrivals along with the excise policy has been increased competition from other destinations followed by connectivity, lack of marketing and high rates. But the biggest factor affecting MICE business has been the present excise policy said 55 percent of the 103 respondents .