KOCHI: While Ernakulam district has witnessed the highest number of foreign tourist arrivals (FTA) in Kerala over the years, recent studies by the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) unveiled serious discrepancies in the data released by the Kerala Tourism Department.The study named ‘Kerala Tourism: The Role of the Government and Economic Impact’ by Lakshmi R Nair and D Dhanuraj of CPPR reveal the actual number FTAs is at least 30 per cent lower than the numbers released by the department.

The Kerala Tourism Department collects foreign and domestic tourist statistics from accommodation establishments regularly through the Economics and Statistics Department, Government of Kerala. The tourist statistics published based on the data can be inflated, since the department asks for the data on foreign tourists based on the nationality in their passports and those on domestic tourists based on their residing states.

The questionnaire does not include a query on the purpose of visit. On the other hand, Form C, which needs to be submitted by the accommodation establishments to the Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) under the Bureau of Immigration, Government of India, contains questions based on the classification of the type of visa and the purpose of visit under each type of visa.

“Ernakulam consistently tops in attracting foreign tourists in Kerala, accounting for a share of 39.2 per cent in 2015. The data that the FTA statistics collected by the Department of Tourism for Ernakulam district are inflated. A study by the Kerala State Planning Board (2015), employing a unique methodology based on the per capita GDP of Euro countries, also shows the FTA statistics of the Department of Tourism are inflated,” stated the study.

As per the report, in 2016, the Department of Tourism claims as many as 4.07 lakh foreign tourists arrived in Ernakulam. While the statistics based on Form C submitted with FRRO, reveal that only 2.78 lakh foreign tourists reached Ernakulam. Similarly, the data with Department of Tourism, in 2015 show 3.83 lakh visited Ernakulam district, but Form C data submitted with FRRO reveals the arrival of 2.05 tourists in Ernakulam.

“It can be concluded the assessment of economic impacts of tourism based on the official domestic and foreign tourist arrival statistics in Kerala is unreliable,” the study stated.Abraham George, former Kerala Travel Mart Society president and CMD of Intersight Tours & Travels, a leading travel company, said the tourists arriving in Kerala visit various places and hence data based on the number provided from hotels to tourism department will not be authentic.

“The exact number of tourist arrivals can be estimated through Form C submitted before FRRO. Tourists coming to Kerala will be staying at different hotels, hence the number of tourist arrivals received through hotels would be higher than the exact number. Around 30 per cent hike can be estimated in FTA data published by the Department of Tourist annually,” he said.

A Tourism Department officer who did not want to be named claimed even though the number of FTAs with the department might not be realistic, the revenue generated from tourist sectors through foreign and domestic tourist arrivals are exact. “It is a hard task to collect the exact number of foreign nationals arriving as tourists. The department is collecting data about FTA through hotels for decades. Even though the tourist might change the hotel, the amount spent by the tourist here and revenue generated through the foreign exchange would be an exact figure,” he said.

“There needs to be a reliable procedure for collating tourist database in the state that distinguishes tourists based on the type of visa and purpose of visit. The revenue and employment impacts of tourism need to be analysed using this database. This will provide a reliable picture of the economic effects of tourism on Kerala.

Tourism policies need to be formulated and developed based on reliable statistics instead of inflated values. Periodical third-party surveys need to be conducted for understanding the profiles of visitors and their spending patterns,” the study recommends.

This report was first published by The New Indian Express on February 12, 2018. Click here to read: Welcome to Ernakulam,how do you do?

This report is based on study done by CPPR, click to read the study: Kerala Tourism – The Role of the Government and Economic Impacts

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