Onam Special 1997: When Industry Leaders Came Together in Our Pages

Onam Visit Kerala Year

It was July 1997; a couple of months after Destination Kerala was born. “I have something for you to make your magazine relevant to the times,” U K S Chauhan IAS, the then Director of Kerala Tourism, made a surprise proposal to me. “I have decided to market the period from August 1997 to August 1998 as Visit Kerala Year (VKY), and the minister has welcomed the idea. You can create a special supplement in your Onam issue. Make the content participatory by featuring all the major players of the industry in it. Specifically, I want a print-symposium on how relevant VKY is to our mission.”

As soon as he cleared our modest proposal, we set out to work. The symposium was carried in our August 1997 issue and here is a recall of what some of the industry leaders told us then. “A golden opportunity to invite focused global attention to God’s Own Country during the half centenary celebrations of India’s independence,” is how Chauhanji saw VKY. “Our fairs and festivals will be dedicated to the Golden Jubilee highlighting past glory and how carefully we have preserved our traditions and heritage over the years. That apart, we want to implement some of the excellent ideas the industry has come up with: public-private collaboration is the need of the hour.”

To welcome the increased number of visitors VKY will bring home, Kerala would need to spruce up tourism infrastructure on a war footing. “VKY is a great occasion to look at areas like airport facilitation, safety, information channels, health and hygiene, and wayside amenities, and drive improvement in those areas,” pointed out P K Mohan Kumar, Area General Manager – Kerala, Taj Group of Hotels. “Hotels can play a major part in promoting VKY through information dissemination and activities like theme welcomes and food festivals.”

K C Chandrahasan (Chandru) of Kerala Travels, who was the President of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) Kerala Chapter, was not at all enthused by the idea and for good reason. “If we wanted to observe VKY we should have taken that decision last year and publicised it at events like WTM ’96 and ITB ’97,” he told me bluntly. “That would have given tour operators time to plan itineraries well in advance and persuade tourists to visit us during VKY.”

Many of those ideas are relevant even today and Kerala Tourism has immensely benefitted and registered tremendous progress in the last two decades thanks to the selfless contributions of such leading lights from the industry.

Today, as we celebrate our 20th Onam issue, all of them except Chauhanji are with us, some still active and some in retirement mode after making their valuable presence felt in the growth story called tourism in Kerala. Happy Onam in advance to all of you. May your harvest be as plentiful as all those years of challenges and opportunities.