• TOURISM BODY IN KERALA TO OBSERVE BLACK DAY ON MAY 1

    A second wave of Covid-19 and the ensuing restrictions can eliminate the tourism sector in Kerala, the industry’s captains and workers fear, announcing they will observe May 1 as Black Day to press the state government to resolve the grave issue.
    The Tourism SamrakshanaSamithi, while noting that the segment was struggling even amid a stimulus package from the government, said the future looked bleaker with the prospects of massive job loss and shutdown of allied businesses.
    Even those generating some revenue out of tourism are in dire straits, noted the umbrella body for 20 organisations. It will observe the Labour Day state-wide this time by wearing black masks, and further announce the grimness in the sector by carrying out a social media campaign with #SaveTourism as the hashtag.
    Tourism has been a mainstay of the Kerala economy with the sector generating an income of Rs 44,000 crore annually and providing employment to 15 lakh people both directly and otherwise. For 14 months now, tourism in the state has been struggling to come out of the travails in the wake of the pandemic.
    Towards October last year, tourism showed faint signs of improvement, but they weren’t enough to inspire confidence among the stakeholders in the sector. Many of them stared at big-time debt, attachment of property andmounting arrears in the payment of taxes and bills on water and power. Besides, extra expenses were incurred to meet the Covid-19 protocols.
    Into February this year, Kerala topped the country’s list on Covid-positive patients, reducing the inflow of domestic tourists to a trickle. What’s more, other state governments imposed a law that necessitated a Covid-negative certificate from Kerala-returned tourists.
    Amid the worsening situation, the second wave of Covid-19 currently led he administration to imposer further restrictions on travel. Of the 18,000 people who tested Covid-positive the other day, only 269 were from outside Kerala — and none of them in the state as tourists. Even so, none in the tourism sector has so far tested positive for the novel coronavirus, showing the earnestness of its workers in following the Covid-19 protocols.
    The Samithi has proposed to the authorities to give all tourism workers immediate access to the vaccine against Covid-19. It wants the jobless to be provided Rs 5,000 a month, a package aiding the labour involved in tourism, exemption of taxes and fees for tourist vehicles and houseboats, moratorium on paying tax arrears, cancellation of KFC’s blood bank policy, remove the fixed charge on power for hotels and concession on bills. The organisation also sought the withdrawal of clamp on tourist movements, not make RTPCR testing compulsory for tourists visiting Kerala and returning, and a 24-month moratorium on GST.
    The organisations under the Samithiwith Sudheesh Kumar as the convenor include Association of Tourism Trade Organisations (ATTOI), Confederation of Accredited Tour Operators (CATO), South Kerala Hoteliers Forum (SKHF), Kerala Tourism Protection and Development Council (KTPDC) and Kovalam Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA).

  • Saudi confirmed as Official Partner Country of ITB India 2021

    ITB India and Saudi Tourism Authority announce exclusive partnership
    The Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) and ITB India have announced Saudi as the Official Partner Country of ITB India 2021. The inaugural ITB India Virtual Event, being held on 7 - 9 April 2021, is an annual B2B trade show and conference specifically curated to build a bridge to the Indian and South Asian travel market. STA is responsible for raising awareness of Saudi, the authentic home of Arabia, as a destination. The organization is focused on developing partnerships with travel trade partners around the world, to expand the reach of Saudi’s tourism offer and to drive conversion in key source markets. The Saudi Tourism Authority is building a global community dedicated to driving awareness of Saudi as a unique tourism destination offering authentic Arabian experiences to cultural explorers from around the world, said Fahd Hamidaddin, Chief Executive Officer of STA. The destination’s wealth of heritage sites, its dynamic urban centers and the warm hospitality of the Saudi people make it a compelling destination for travelers seeking the new, unexpected stories that make a journey truly memorable. As the Official Partner Country of ITB India, Saudi Tourism Authority will showcase an array of current tourism offerings and destination highlights as well as the exciting new developments on the horizon. Tourism is a strategic industry for the future of Saudi Arabian and the country is the world’s largest investor in sustainable tourism infrastructure and offerings. Projects such as the Red Sea and Amaala are setting new global standards in the development and management of tourism in harmony with the natural world. And new sites like AlUla and Diriyah are offering visitors a hitherto unexplored insight into the rich cultural history of Arabia. Saudi offers Indian travelers a unique experience, grounded in Saudi hospitality and redolent of Arabian mystery, said Fahd Hamidaddin. Our partnership with ITB India is an important part of our long-term objective to engage, inspire, invite and delight Indian travelers to Saudi.

    ITB India attendees will have an opportunity to visit Saudi Tourism Authority’s digital exhibition booth and arrange one-on-one meetings with STA representatives to learn more about the destination.

  • Kerala Tourism launches My First Trip 2021 campaign targeting domestic tourists

    March 25-29 drive aims to woo tourists in post-pandemic era

    Kerala Tourism today launched a pioneering travel initiative led by ten influencers from around the country who will carry out a new-media campaign to attract domestic tourists in the post-Covid era.

    Smt Rani George, IAS, Principal Secretary, Tourism, flagged off the Kerala Blog Express, titled ‘My First Trip 2021’, which is slated to conclude on March 29. 

    The influencers will tread different itineraries for six nights and five days, facilitating production of exclusive contents for Kerala Tourism.The images, videos and literature generated by them will be shared on social-media platforms as #MyFirstTrip.  They will announce to the world that destinations in God’s Own Country continue to be open for tourists. 

    Kerala Tourism Director Shri V.R. Krishna Teja, IAS, and Shri Biju. B.S, Deputy Director, Marketing, Kerala Tourism, were also present at the function held at the Hotel Mascot in the city.

    “The trip will give the participants a chance to not just visit the famous tourist destinations in Kerala, but experience the cuisine, culture, art and other popular activities around,” Smt George said. 

    “Tourism industry was struck by the pandemic and Kerala was no exception. Gradually, we learned to live on with Covid-19. We started to see visitors coming to Kerala from November-December 2020. Now, these vloggers can also spread the word to the world that Kerala is safer to explore since Covid-19 cases are on the decline in the state. So, people would understand the situation,” she added. 

    Shri Teja, in his address, said that through the trip, the vloggers would certainly experience the warmth of people and understand how safe the state was to explore.

    While the previous editions of the Kerala Blog Express had only international bloggers and social media influencers, My First Trip 2021 has only domestic influencers and aims to provide additional impetus to the current domestic marketing initiatives of Kerala.

    ‘My First Trip’ will take the influencers on a trip across various destinations in 10 specially branded cars, stipulating to the pandemic protocol in mind. The participants will follow five different itineraries around the state.

    The destinations include the Jadayu Earth Center at Chadayamangalam in Kollam district, Thumboormuzhi Garden near Chalakudy in Thrissur district, Vazhachal, Athirapally waterfalls near it and the Malakkapara hill-station in the area. 

    The travellers will also experience village life at Munroe Island (Kollam) and nature walk along the bird sanctuary in Kumarakom (Kottayam) and a houseboat cruise there, besides visits to the Muziris Heritage project sites north of Kochi and a town walk through coastal Alappuzha. Other highlights are visits to the Punnamada lake, Marari beach, boating in the Periyar lake, Tea Museum in Idukki district, the dams at Kundala and Mattupetti and water sports at Cherai northwest of Kochi.

    Four of the influencers are from Mumbai, three from Delhi and one each from Hyderabad (Telangana), Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Ajmer (Rajasthan).

  • Punes Bhagyashri Patrikar Crowned Mrs Most Diligent

    Mrs. Bhagyashri Patrikar, a Science graduate and art enthusiast from Pune, has been bestowed with the title of ‘Mrs. Most Diligent’ in all India VPR Mrs. India grand finale hosted at Ahmedabad last week. 

    For the last two years, VPR has been organizing Mrs. India competition to provide an equal platform to the Indian married women, divorcees and widows. This year VPR flagged off the second edition of its competition with total 42 pageants been shortlisted from different Indian cities.

    Bhagyashri Kuber Patrikar, a mother of two, Narayani and Kaustubh, represented Pune. She has been associated with top IT firms as Software Engineer. Putting her papers down at the peak of her career in IT to attend to her kids, Bhagyashri turned into a self-motivated entrepreneur and started selling handcrafted pots. The choice to deal in art came spontaneously to Bhagyashri who has always nurtured a love for painting. Bhagyashri is also a recognised poet in Marathi, English and Hindi. Her literary works have been published in numerous local magazines. 

    As an entrepreneur, Bhagyashri reaches out to women constantly riled by the demanding responsibilities at home and work. Her business strives to offer a space and identity to these women. Bhagyashri's diligent commitment to social works has made her a valued member of Rotary Club, Pune. In appreciation of VPR Mrs. India, Bhagyashri says the platform has given her the wings to soar higher. 

  • KSUM enables IT firm Premagic to work near home in post Covid time

    Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) took adecisive stride inpromotingthe culture of ‘work near home’ (WNH) when the nodal agency facilitated a nascent IT firm to set up office in Kerala, ten months after it shifted base from Bangaloreamid a Covid-induced lockdown.

    KSUM Chief Executive Officer MrTapanRayaguru inaugurated the new office of Premagic near Thrissur, enabling the three-year-old company to turn a new leaf in its service offering cloud-based solutions for wedding photographers in a post-Covid scenario. 

    “The pandemic has prompted many companies to allow its employees work from home. But family atmosphere and professional engagements needn’t necessarily be an ideal mix. It is here that WNH gains relevance,”the CEO said, while announcing the formal start of Premagic’s headquarters in Kandassankadavu, 16 km southwest of this city.

    The 2018-registered company, which is into SAAS business, chiefly targets wedding photographers, having launched a cloud-based photo-proofing app.
    “Weddings can just be a start. Clients can come in for any joyous occasions—personal or professional,” MrRayaguru said. “I am sure WNH is to catch up in the days to come. KSUM assures all help to make it big trend.”
    Premagic founder Anup Mohan said the KSUM-incubated company started as a cloud-based photo proofing app for photographers & their clients. It allows the clients to easily select/choose the images that are required for their album. It also helps the photographers to make digital signature albums that can be used to generate more referral leads and eventually new business.
    “One major point that has boost our profile is our vacatingthe Bangalore premises last summer. In Kerala, we set up a base near my home. All our meetings and demo calls happen online from here,” Mr Mohan said.

    Recently,Premagichired two hands from Bangalore. “To my surprise, they showed interest in relocating to Thrissur. They now work from here,” he revealed. “All we need is a good internet connection, ecosystem and accommodation. We managed all these with far less expense,” he revealed.
    Premagic, which was selected as a delegate to attend The London Techweek 2019, received a scale-up grant from the Kerala government. In February last year, the company’s monthly revenue crossed Rs 3,00,000while the total number of its paid photographers rose to 200.
    The outbreak of Covid-19 curbed weddings and its photography business, leading Premagic to scale down expansion plans. The company, instead, started exploring the B2B2C side by upselling to the bride and groom via photographers. 
    Premagic, with eight staffers, created a secondary revenue model by charging the photographer’s client. “We expanded the market and got new paid customers from Delhi, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh—from where we now have 100-plus photographers,” Mr Mohan said.
    “Photographers in our platform crossed 4,000 with more than 500 paid subscribers. Total weddings in our platform crossed 10,000. Our revenue in January this year was Rs 5,00,000. “I believe our initiative will be an inspiration for other Kerala IT startups based outside to relocate their bases back to their home-state.”
    KSUM, as a non-profit entity registered in 2014 under Society Act 1956, is an incubator approved by the Union government’s Department of Science and Technology’s National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board. The agency, which works for the promotion of entrepreneurship development and incubation activities in the state, undertakes planning, establishment and management of technology business incubators and accelerators to promote technology-based ventures by creating the infrastructure and environment.

  • John M Thomas takes over as IT Parks Kerala CEO

    Mr. John M Thomas has taken over as the new Chief Executive Officer of IT Parks-Kerala, bringing to his new assignment years of experience and expertise acquired while working with top global companies.

    An MBA in Information Systems, Operations and Finance from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, he succeeds Mr. Sasi Pilacheri Meethal, who relinquished his post yesterday.

    “The IT sector in Kerala has been thriving even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” noted Mr Thomas, whose previous assignment was with Equifax Inc. Atlanta, USA as Cloud Data Migration Leader. 

    “The state’s IT business is seeing a positive trend. New business models are evolving globally, especially in the IT sector,” he said.  

    Kerala’s IT Parks have played a pivotal role and will continue to be the front-runner in these unprecedented times focused in the development part of setting up and upkeep of a truly  world class IT infrastructure and also by enabling the human capital in cutting-edge technologies. The Parks are ready to welcome companies and employees to the campus while adhering to the COVID protocols.

    “The Parks are very positive and confident in facilitating and hosting some of the biggest names in the industry,” he observed.

    Earlier, the staff of the IT Parks-Kerala accorded a warm farewell to the outgoing CEO Mr Meethal. 

  • Lords Hospital joins hands with wellOwise to bring precision health to Kerala

    Lords Hospital, a leading healthcare provider in Kerala for more than two decades, has partnered with a Delhi-based precision health startup, wellOwise, to bring precision diagnosis and medicine for all metabolic diseases.
    Announcing this, Padma Shri Prof Dr K P Haridas, Chairman, Lords Hospital here said: "This partnership will facilitate personalised and precise treatment solutions for each person through the use of a precision diagnosis approach." 
    "We hope that people will become more proactive towards their health in the post-Covid times and realise the importance of preventive health especially for diseases like diabetes and obesity, which weaken one's immune system and make them susceptible for infections,” Dr Haridas added.
    "Precision diagnosis focuses on the use of scientific research, genetic testing advances and the power of epigenetics (factors that influence genetics like our diet, lifestyle and environment) to discover the molecular changes at the DNA levels underlying a disease and provide pharmacological and dietary intervention unique to an individual," explains Dr Saher Mehdi, Co-founder and Chief Scientist at wellOwise. 
    "What we are doing at wellOwise is the future of healthcare. Although the fundamentals of precision medicine and precision health are now widely accepted in medical and academic research, not many companies have taken a plunge to put this in practice. India being the chronic disease capital of the world, is the perfect place to begin such an initiative. With our diverse genetics background and unique cultural influences affecting our health, we need to use our individual variability to our advantage to stay ahead of the curve of chronic diseases."
    Dr Haridas and his team of consultants specialise in metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension which are at biggest risk factors for leading chronic diseases. 
    The current Covid-19 crisis has further reiterated the importance of staying free of comorbidities of chronic diseases, as people with diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease were worst affected by the current pandemic. 
    Mr Harish Haridas, Vice Chairman, Lords said, “The partnership of Lords Hospital with India's first precision health startup will provide the best solutions available for personalised treatment of metabolic diseases in the country.”
    “This partnership is just the start of many more that we are planning in the area of specialised healthcare. We intend to curate many such partnerships with health tech startups,” Mr Harish Haridas added. 

  • IBS Software s new iFlight Platform Transforms Global Flight Operations at LATAM Airlines

    LATAM Airlines Group has deployed IBS Software’s iFlight digital platform to optimize their flight and crew operations across all its Spanish Speaking Carriers (SSC) and cargo subsidiaries. All the LATAM SSC and cargo subsidiary carriers (LATAM Chile, Colombia, Lan Express, Peru, Ecuador, Chile Cargo, Cargo Colombia, and Cargo Brazil) are already operating on the integrated iFlight Ops and Crew SaaS platform. 

    LATAM becomes the first airline to implement the latest version of iFlight, which has been optimized to help airlines balance operational disruption with cost efficiency and customer satisfaction across their entire network. iFlight is a fully integrated technology platform developed as three specific modules to optimize Ops, Crew and Hub management, making IBS Software the first company to provide the aviation industry with this level of operational insight and management functionality. 

    Through the implementation of iFlight, LATAM’s System Operations Team has a single integrated platform to proactively monitor Ops and Crew management and make informed, data-led decisions. The single view of Ops and Crew means that LATAM can respond in real-time to flight disruptions caused by external factors, improve customer service, reduce delays, and the impact of disruption and cancellation costs. iFlight’s comprehensive cost and KPI monitoring capability will allow LATAM to evaluate the full financial impact of operational decisions and reduce operational cost overruns.

    LATAM Brazil and LATAM Paraguay will deploy iFlight later in 2021, as part of the multi-phase transition.

    The global pandemic has placed enormous pressure on airlines to remove inefficiencies and reduce costs. Airlines need a proactive, data-led operations strategy as they emerge from the pandemic, so that they can minimize the impact of delays, diversions, cancelations, and irregular operations (IROPs) as they resume and maintain operations. Integrated solutions help airlines successfully implement contingency plans and reduce the impact of disruption, as they adapt to an evolving post-COVID-19 world. iFlight will equip the LATAM operations teams with the insight needed to make informed, strategic decisions about their business models and operational objectives.

    “With this transformation, we are now able to harness the latest industry technology to optimize efficiency and ensure our passengers benefit from improved on-time performance. The deployment reinforces our commitment to providing industry leading services and experiences to our passengers” said Hernán Pasman, Chief Operations Officer, LATAM Airlines Group.

    “This iFlight implementation is an important milestone in the digital transformation journey at LATAM,” said Mathew M Baby, Head of Airline Operations, IBS Software. “The digitization of airline operations has never been more important as airlines look to improve Ops and Crew utilization to capitalize on all possible efficiencies and enhance the passenger experience. IBS Software is committed to innovation, and providing airlines the technology they need to respond to the ever-changing market.”

  • Simplify interstate tariffs to promote domestic tourism: Kerala Governor

    Arif Mohammed Khan Inaugurates March 1-5 Kerala Travel Mart, urging for tourism strategy focusing on safety in post-Covid era
    Kerala Travel Mart(KTM) got off to a start on Sunday evening, as state Governor ShriArif Mohammed Khan inaugurated the country’s biggest tourism meet with a call to highlight domestic tourism for better collaboration among states and greater understanding between people.
    “A better industry-level co-ordination in hospitality and transportation and an inter-state understanding to rationalize and simplify taxes and tariffs will help in leveraging the true potential of our domestic market in tourism,” he said, declaring open the March 1-5 virtual summit, through videoconferencing, that aims to revitalize the state’s travel sector in the post-Covid scenario.
    Stressing the need to embrace the spirit of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) bytreating domestic tourism as the mainstay for the industry when global air travel is facing restrictions, the Governor said,“Let tourism enable people of every part of India to understand and value each other so that we strengthen our cultural unity as a nation.”
    Shri Khan complimented Kerala’s tourism projects aimed at makingit a “complete and different”destination with focus on cultural heritage. “We need to re-configure our business strategy by emphasizing on safety and security so as to meet the post-pandemic global demands and aspirations,” he added.
    This is the chief aim of the 11thKTM, with close to 500 international buyers and 650 domestic buyers, facilitating 15,000 meetings between the buyers and exhibitors. By striving to restore the pace of growth of tourism that has slid since the outbreak of the global pandemic, the event by KTM Society will exhibit the various products of the state’s vital tourism sector. The summit is being attended by all members of the KTM Society,which is India’s biggest organisation in the travel and tourism segment.
    The Governor, addressing delegates at Uday Palace Convention Centre here, expressed the hope thatthe post-pandemic global consciousness will expect governments and communities to renew work to meet the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. “This is vital in tourism where the basic assets are Nature and the tangible and 

    intangible heritage of humanity. ‘Green, clean and safe’ should be the motto of all tourism activities,” he added at the functionorganised in adherence with Covid-19 protocols.
    Dr V P Joy, Chief Secretary of Kerala, chairing the ceremony, said Kerala tourism is on a revival path, involving right from grassroots workers to top-level functionaries.
    He noted that the ongoing vaccination, which is to pick up in Kerala from March, would help the state get out of the pandemic — to the benefit of its tourism.“Once we are through with Covid-19, the industry will be back on the rails,” Dr Joy added.
    Kerala Tourism Principal Secretary Smt Rani Georgespoke how new campaigns were helping the state resume tourism after the outbreak of Covid-19. Ayurveda can be an added attraction for the tourists arriving in the state, known for the ancient wellness system.
    Listing a set of new heritage products, Smt George specially invited tourists to visit the state’s northern parts that have been given a fresh focus.
    Kerala Tourism Director Shri V R Krishna Teja, IAS,said KTM 2021 gives deserving space to small and medium buyers, adding to the synergy of trade and tourism. 
    India Tourism Regional Director (Chennai) Shri DVenkatesan said several destinations, despite the Covid-induced issues, have begun to clock footfalls. “Kerala has done well in conserving nature and devising products while making strides in tourism,” he noted.
    KTM Society President Shri Baby MathewSomatheeram, welcoming the gathering, said the virtual mart would show the world that Kerala is successfully fighting out the novel coronavirus. The event highlightsthe state’s capability tobring in touristsamid a changed world order, he added.
    KTM Society former presidentShri EM Najeeb reiterated the need to review the quarantine for domestic tourists.Shri Abraham George, another past president of the Society, proposed a vote of thanks.

  • CM to inaugurate March 1 to 5 KTM virtual meet that seeks to revive Kerala’s tourism

    Chief Minister Shri Pinarayi Vijayan will open next week’s Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) that seeks to reinvigorate the state’s tourism, as the March 1-5 virtual braces up to take full advantage out of a post-Covid scenario by initiating a milestone convergence of domestic and foreign buyers in the vital sector.
    Tourism Minister Shri Kadakampally Surendran will be chair the inaugural function at the Uday Palace Convention Centre at Kowdiar in the heart of the city. Finance Minister Dr T M Thomas Isaac will be the chief guest at the ceremony being organised in strict adherence to Covid-19 protocol, according to KTM Society which is India’s biggest organization in the travel and tourism segment.
    KTM, as the country’s biggest tourism meet, will facilitate domestic and foreign buyers to hold online interactions with 700 sellers across continents. The prime aim is to restore the pace of growth of tourism that has been affected for a year owing to the outbreak of the global pandemic, organisers said.
    Present at the March 1 inaugural function will be Thiruvananthapuram Mayor Kum Arya Rajendran; Dr Shashi Tharoor, MP;  Adv V K Prasanth, MLA; Kerala Tourism Principal Secretary Smt Rani George; Director Shri V R Krishna Teja; Municipal Corporation Member Smt S Sathikumari; KTM Society President Shri Baby Mathew Somatheeram and Secretary Shri Jose Pradeep besides former presidents of KTM Society.
    The five-day meet, which will be attended by all members of the KTM Society, is set to exhibit the various products of the state’s tourism sector.
    The previous edition (2018) of the KTM, too, was held in the aftermath of a disaster: floods. That time (in September), the meet sought to allaypublic apprehensions about the monsoon calamity upsetting Kerala’s tourism prospects. The upcoming KTM, too, work for a similar model that caninspire confidence in the stakeholders. The deliberations are aimed to chart out ways that can help the sector lessen the losses owing to Covid-19 and its lingering effects.
    Already, the government’s measures against the pandemic has won Kerala appreciation across the globe. In fact, steps to strengthen the inflow of tourists have been successful, given a surge in travelers in the past four months. Sticking to Covid protocol, the state’s tourism department has been working in association with the hotels, resorts and homestays, boosting the state’s travel industry.
    Also, the government has rolled out a Rs 455-crore relief package for both theentrepreneurs and employees/workers in tourism. The state-level bankers’committee gives loans up to Rs 25 lakh to entrepreneurs intourism. The government is paying half the interest for the first year.

    Further, Kerala Bank gives loans between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 to those employed in the tourism sector. The beneficiaries need to pay only 3 per cent interest, as thegovernment pays the rest 6 per cent as subsidies.
    The authorities are giving Rs 10,000 each as a one-time relief amount to 328 guidesaccredited with the tourism departments of the state and central governments. Grants up to Rs 1.25 lakh are being distributed for the maintenance of houseboats.The commercial tax, which the local administration department was collecting fromhomestays,has been retained as house tax to the relief to the hospitality industry.

Saudi confirmed as Official Partner Country of ITB India 2021

ITB India and Saudi Tourism Authority announce exclusive partnership
The Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) and ITB India have announced Saudi as the Official Partner Country of ITB India 2021. The inaugural ITB India Virtual Event, being held on 7 - 9 April 2021, is an annual B2B trade show and conference specifically curated to build a bridge to the Indian and South Asian travel market. STA is responsible for raising awareness of Saudi, the authentic home of Arabia, as a destination. The organization is focused on developing partnerships with travel trade partners around the world, to expand the reach of Saudi’s tourism offer and to drive conversion in key source markets. The Saudi Tourism Authority is building a global community dedicated to driving awareness of Saudi as a unique tourism destination offering authentic Arabian experiences to cultural explorers from around the world, said Fahd Hamidaddin, Chief Executive Officer of STA. The destination’s wealth of heritage sites, its dynamic urban centers and the warm hospitality of the Saudi people make it a compelling destination for travelers seeking the new, unexpected stories that make a journey truly memorable. As the Official Partner Country of ITB India, Saudi Tourism Authority will showcase an array of current tourism offerings and destination highlights as well as the exciting new developments on the horizon. Tourism is a strategic industry for the future of Saudi Arabian and the country is the world’s largest investor in sustainable tourism infrastructure and offerings. Projects such as the Red Sea and Amaala are setting new global standards in the development and management of tourism in harmony with the natural world. And new sites like AlUla and Diriyah are offering visitors a hitherto unexplored insight into the rich cultural history of Arabia. Saudi offers Indian travelers a unique experience, grounded in Saudi hospitality and redolent of Arabian mystery, said Fahd Hamidaddin. Our partnership with ITB India is an important part of our long-term objective to engage, inspire, invite and delight Indian travelers to Saudi.

ITB India attendees will have an opportunity to visit Saudi Tourism Authority’s digital exhibition booth and arrange one-on-one meetings with STA representatives to learn more about the destination.

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Kerala Tourism launches My First Trip 2021 campaign targeting domestic tourists

March 25-29 drive aims to woo tourists in post-pandemic era

Kerala Tourism today launched a pioneering travel initiative led by ten influencers from around the country who will carry out a new-media campaign to attract domestic tourists in the post-Covid era.

Smt Rani George, IAS, Principal Secretary, Tourism, flagged off the Kerala Blog Express, titled ‘My First Trip 2021’, which is slated to conclude on March 29. 

The influencers will tread different itineraries for six nights and five days, facilitating production of exclusive contents for Kerala Tourism.The images, videos and literature generated by them will be shared on social-media platforms as #MyFirstTrip.  They will announce to the world that destinations in God’s Own Country continue to be open for tourists. 

Kerala Tourism Director Shri V.R. Krishna Teja, IAS, and Shri Biju. B.S, Deputy Director, Marketing, Kerala Tourism, were also present at the function held at the Hotel Mascot in the city.

“The trip will give the participants a chance to not just visit the famous tourist destinations in Kerala, but experience the cuisine, culture, art and other popular activities around,” Smt George said. 

“Tourism industry was struck by the pandemic and Kerala was no exception. Gradually, we learned to live on with Covid-19. We started to see visitors coming to Kerala from November-December 2020. Now, these vloggers can also spread the word to the world that Kerala is safer to explore since Covid-19 cases are on the decline in the state. So, people would understand the situation,” she added. 

Shri Teja, in his address, said that through the trip, the vloggers would certainly experience the warmth of people and understand how safe the state was to explore.

While the previous editions of the Kerala Blog Express had only international bloggers and social media influencers, My First Trip 2021 has only domestic influencers and aims to provide additional impetus to the current domestic marketing initiatives of Kerala.

‘My First Trip’ will take the influencers on a trip across various destinations in 10 specially branded cars, stipulating to the pandemic protocol in mind. The participants will follow five different itineraries around the state.

The destinations include the Jadayu Earth Center at Chadayamangalam in Kollam district, Thumboormuzhi Garden near Chalakudy in Thrissur district, Vazhachal, Athirapally waterfalls near it and the Malakkapara hill-station in the area. 

The travellers will also experience village life at Munroe Island (Kollam) and nature walk along the bird sanctuary in Kumarakom (Kottayam) and a houseboat cruise there, besides visits to the Muziris Heritage project sites north of Kochi and a town walk through coastal Alappuzha. Other highlights are visits to the Punnamada lake, Marari beach, boating in the Periyar lake, Tea Museum in Idukki district, the dams at Kundala and Mattupetti and water sports at Cherai northwest of Kochi.

Four of the influencers are from Mumbai, three from Delhi and one each from Hyderabad (Telangana), Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Ajmer (Rajasthan).

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Punes Bhagyashri Patrikar Crowned Mrs Most Diligent

Mrs. Bhagyashri Patrikar, a Science graduate and art enthusiast from Pune, has been bestowed with the title of ‘Mrs. Most Diligent’ in all India VPR Mrs. India grand finale hosted at Ahmedabad last week. 

For the last two years, VPR has been organizing Mrs. India competition to provide an equal platform to the Indian married women, divorcees and widows. This year VPR flagged off the second edition of its competition with total 42 pageants been shortlisted from different Indian cities.

Bhagyashri Kuber Patrikar, a mother of two, Narayani and Kaustubh, represented Pune. She has been associated with top IT firms as Software Engineer. Putting her papers down at the peak of her career in IT to attend to her kids, Bhagyashri turned into a self-motivated entrepreneur and started selling handcrafted pots. The choice to deal in art came spontaneously to Bhagyashri who has always nurtured a love for painting. Bhagyashri is also a recognised poet in Marathi, English and Hindi. Her literary works have been published in numerous local magazines. 

As an entrepreneur, Bhagyashri reaches out to women constantly riled by the demanding responsibilities at home and work. Her business strives to offer a space and identity to these women. Bhagyashri's diligent commitment to social works has made her a valued member of Rotary Club, Pune. In appreciation of VPR Mrs. India, Bhagyashri says the platform has given her the wings to soar higher. 

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KSUM enables IT firm Premagic to work near home in post Covid time

Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) took adecisive stride inpromotingthe culture of ‘work near home’ (WNH) when the nodal agency facilitated a nascent IT firm to set up office in Kerala, ten months after it shifted base from Bangaloreamid a Covid-induced lockdown.

KSUM Chief Executive Officer MrTapanRayaguru inaugurated the new office of Premagic near Thrissur, enabling the three-year-old company to turn a new leaf in its service offering cloud-based solutions for wedding photographers in a post-Covid scenario. 

“The pandemic has prompted many companies to allow its employees work from home. But family atmosphere and professional engagements needn’t necessarily be an ideal mix. It is here that WNH gains relevance,”the CEO said, while announcing the formal start of Premagic’s headquarters in Kandassankadavu, 16 km southwest of this city.

The 2018-registered company, which is into SAAS business, chiefly targets wedding photographers, having launched a cloud-based photo-proofing app.
“Weddings can just be a start. Clients can come in for any joyous occasions—personal or professional,” MrRayaguru said. “I am sure WNH is to catch up in the days to come. KSUM assures all help to make it big trend.”
Premagic founder Anup Mohan said the KSUM-incubated company started as a cloud-based photo proofing app for photographers & their clients. It allows the clients to easily select/choose the images that are required for their album. It also helps the photographers to make digital signature albums that can be used to generate more referral leads and eventually new business.
“One major point that has boost our profile is our vacatingthe Bangalore premises last summer. In Kerala, we set up a base near my home. All our meetings and demo calls happen online from here,” Mr Mohan said.

Recently,Premagichired two hands from Bangalore. “To my surprise, they showed interest in relocating to Thrissur. They now work from here,” he revealed. “All we need is a good internet connection, ecosystem and accommodation. We managed all these with far less expense,” he revealed.
Premagic, which was selected as a delegate to attend The London Techweek 2019, received a scale-up grant from the Kerala government. In February last year, the company’s monthly revenue crossed Rs 3,00,000while the total number of its paid photographers rose to 200.
The outbreak of Covid-19 curbed weddings and its photography business, leading Premagic to scale down expansion plans. The company, instead, started exploring the B2B2C side by upselling to the bride and groom via photographers. 
Premagic, with eight staffers, created a secondary revenue model by charging the photographer’s client. “We expanded the market and got new paid customers from Delhi, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh—from where we now have 100-plus photographers,” Mr Mohan said.
“Photographers in our platform crossed 4,000 with more than 500 paid subscribers. Total weddings in our platform crossed 10,000. Our revenue in January this year was Rs 5,00,000. “I believe our initiative will be an inspiration for other Kerala IT startups based outside to relocate their bases back to their home-state.”
KSUM, as a non-profit entity registered in 2014 under Society Act 1956, is an incubator approved by the Union government’s Department of Science and Technology’s National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board. The agency, which works for the promotion of entrepreneurship development and incubation activities in the state, undertakes planning, establishment and management of technology business incubators and accelerators to promote technology-based ventures by creating the infrastructure and environment.

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