Thiruvananthapuram: Tourism Ministers of various states will be meeting here on September 16 to deliberate on key issues and challenges confronting the travel and hospitality sector and hammer out strategies to firm up India's position as a prime global destination of immense diversity.
Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture, Prahlad Singh Patel will be the chief guest at the conclave, to be inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
State Tourism Minister, Kadakampally Surendran, will preside over the function.
Major topics on the agenda of the meet to be attended by tourism ministers and officials include 'Best practices in sustainable tourism,' 'Challenges faced by tourism industry,' and Branding and promotion of state tourism boards.'
As the event coincides with the festival season in Kerala, the participants at the conclave will be treated to a colourful cultural pageantry, depicting God's Own Country's history, heritage and journey through ages, organised in the city in the evening by state Tourism Department to mark the finale of the week-long Onam celebrations.
"This is a significant convergence that will come out with mutually-beneficial suggestions for further growth of tourism in the country. It can also become a permanent forum for holding periodic sessions in the future to address emerging issues in tourism sector collectively," said Kadakampally Surendran.
"There are issues that need to be addressed jointly by the states such as elimination of disparities in tax rates, rationalisation of GST tariffs relating to the hospitality industry, affordable air fares to beat global competition, improving road and rail connectivity and standardisation of service parameters," he added.
Some of these issues are to be taken up with the centre, the minister said.
The brainstorming meet would also offer an opportunity for Kerala to present before the entire nation how quickly it bounced back from last year's devastating floods, he said.
Evolving common strategies by identifying areas of co-operation among states in conserving ecology and protecting and preserving tangible and intangible heritage is a prime topic to be discussed at the conclave.
An entire session of the conclave has been marked to deliberate on issues concerning travel and hospitality industry as a major revenue-generating activity, especially in times when the economy is confronted with headwinds.
Putting a robust system in place to ensure world-class quality of services by evolving standardisation and accreditation protocols acceptable to all will be part of the industry-related discussions.
The meet will also debate the initiatives needed to support branding and marketing efforts of State Tourism Boards.
The emphasis will be on identifying target markets, drawing up marketing plans, organising festivals and cultural events, stepping up digital marketing and leveraging of social media and strengthening public-private partnership.
"Tourism is an activity that blurs boundaries. All the states would benefit from deliberations and interactions at the conclave by sharing experiences and cementing co-operation," Surendran said.