India, Brazil and South Africa signed a draft tripartite tourism cooperation agreement Sunday at the fifth edition of the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM).
Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan inaugurated the mart Saturday night.
On behalf of India, Leela Nandan, joint secretary in the tourism department of the central government, signed the agreement. Diplomats Carlos R Santana of Brazil and Zukiswa Nekhgranye of South Africa did the honours on behalf of their countries.
"This is a draft agreement. Next month we will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Delhi," Nandan said.
"This agreement will certainly boost tourism activities as well as provide for better understanding and building of goodwill and friendship between our countries," Santana said.
A 32-member delegation of tour operators from both these countries also participated in the agreement signing function.
After going around the fair, state Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan expressed satisfaction in the manner in which the mart is being conducted.
"From the response it appears that this has become the biggest Travel Mart in the country. I have got feedback that this will prove to be extremely useful to small and new entrepreneurs in the tourism industry," he said.
Compared to earlier versions of the KTM, this time the number of people attending was the highest.
"We have 570 international and 1,050 domestic buyers. More than 50 countries are represented and 312 stalls are selling products. With the start of business discussions, the response and seriousness of the participants have become very visible," said the KTM Chairman E.M. Najeeb.
Airlines like Air India, Sri Lankan, Silk Air and Jet Airways have brought a large number of tour operators to the mart.
Saramma Jacob of Silk Air said they had flown in leading tour operators from eight countries.
"We were here last time too and we are certainly doing our best to promote Kerala. We bring in tour operators only after proper screening. Based on initial trends, the response appears to be good this time," said Jacob, who heads Silk Air's operations in the state.
Leading hotels in and around Kochi are providing 700 rooms free of cost to the participants.
The event has been organised by the KTM Society with support from the state department of tourism. It concludes Tuesday.
"Then comes the important aspect of ... taking buyers to show our destinations across the state so that they get a feel of what Kerala is," Najeeb said.