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Tourism, trade industries pin hopes on Kochi-Male ferry 

Deccan Herald , Jun 10, 2019

One of the key beneficiaries of the ferry service between Kochi and Maldives, an agreement which was finalised during the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, would be the tourism sector, particularly medical tourism.

The passenger-cum-cargo service, which is yet to be initiated, is expected to boost the export of commodities. Maldives would gain from an increase in the number of tourists from South India— most Indian tourists to Male come form Kerala and Karnataka.

The other side too is set to benefit as the number of tourists from Male to Kerala has also been steadily increasing over the years.

This was echoed by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who said that the proposed ferry service would be a boost to Kerala tourism.

In 2017, Maldivian tourists to the state number 38,769 and the following year saw the number increase to 42,237 despite several adverse factors like floods and Nipah virus outbreak affecting the state.

Tourist and trade organisations in Kerala are keenly awaiting further details like the type of ship that will operate and the rates.

A leading tour operator in the state and president of the Kerala Travel Mart Abraham George told DH that the impact of the decision would depend mainly on the type of ship that will operate.

"If it is a luxury cruise, it would obviously boost the tourism sector. If it is a normal passenger-cum-cargo vessel, it would benefit medical tourism sector as even those who could not afford the air fares could come down to south Indian states for treatment," he said.

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Kerala State Council head Savio Mathew said that since lot of development activities were taking place in Maldives, the introduction of cargo services could boost export of electronic and electric goods from India to the archipelago.

"Also, Maldivians have an attraction towards Indian ready-made dresses. The real impact of the service would depend its cost," he said.

Kerala based hospitality industrialist and National Tourism Advisory Council member E M Najeeb said that the tourism sector would benefit only if luxury vessels are operated.

"It's an overnight travel by sea and hence a major chunk of passengers might prefer to save time by flying. earlier, Kerala had an advantage with regard to medical tourism. But now Maldives has good air connectivity to various destinations in India and as well as other countries like Sri Lanka and Singapore," he said.