According to Tourism Department statistics, tourist arrivals from Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain - which grew at 25-30 per cent till 2017 - slipped to negative growth in the first two quarters.
Tourist arrivals from Bahrain fell the most (-35.16 per cent), followed by Saudi Arabia (-33.71 per cent), Oman (-18.55 per cent), Kuwait (-16.88 per cent) and UAE (-6.05 per cent) when compared to the first half of 2017. The ominous signs were there in 2017 when tourist arrivals from Saudi Arabia declined from a robust growth track, a trend that has spread to countries such as Oman, UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain in no time, said officials.
However, all is not lost. Overall, foreign tourist arrivals grew by 6.96 per cent during the first half of this year.
Notable among the trends was the increase in arrivals from France, which is back in the No 2 spot following a gap of two years, registering a growth of 19.71 per cent.
The UK continues to send the most number of tourists.
According to Kerala Travel Mart Society president Baby Mathew, Kerala Tourism has been actively campaigning in West Asia to woo Arab tourists. There was a significant rise in West Asians visiting the state, especially for medical purposes, a trend the industry had tapped to offer various packages combined with medical tourism.
“But this decline is unexpected and a study has to be done to ascertain the reasons for the reverse trend. It has to be rectified at the earliest as the industry is slowly limping back to normal after one of the worst floods in history and successive blows like Nipah scare and rain fury,” he said.
A senior official said the Tourism Department has been organising campaigns across the world, including West Asia, for which it has set aside Rs12 crore. The department will continue to hard sell Kerala Tourism via social media campaigns and other means, he added