After backwaters and ayurveda spas, it is now the turn of Kerala churches to catch tourist attention.
Tourist planners are promoting famous religious spots frequented by Christians in Kerala. Joseph R. Periera, who operates Jasmine Tours in Malaysia, said three groups of foreign tourists have visited select Christian pilgrim centres in Kerala in the past year.
He will bring another group in September from that region
"The need of the hour is proper infrastructure facilities at such centres as Asian tourists are really interested in them. Kerala does a lot of promotion in European countries and they should now target the Asian market too," said Pereira, a Malaysian.
According to him, Kerala should support airlines to start more flights from Southeast Asia, set up more budget hotels and good restaurants, besides put up clean washrooms at these pilgrim centres.
The places they visited include the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Vallarpadam, Chavara Bhavan - the birthplace of Kuriakose Elias Chavara, birthplace of Alphonsa in Bharanganganam, near Pala in Kottayam, Kunjachan - Rampuram, Mariam Theresa - in Trissur.
The Divine Retreat Centre near Ernakulam is another place where a large number of foreigners arrive to take part in the discourse which extends from a week to even a month.
V. Venu, state tourism secretary, said the niche market of increasing number of tourists from Southeast Asia arriving in Christian religious places in the state has been happening "because several denomination of Christians are co-existing in Kerala".
He also said that the group travellers from Southeast Asia are still to catch up in a big way and the potential for this niche sector is huge.
With regards to special promotion schemes for Southeast Asia, he also said the Kerala Tourism has a global strategy with 90 percent of tourists coming from Europe.