INBOUND agents from India are experiencing double-digit growth in business, slightly over a year after AirAsia began direct daily services between Kuala Lumpur and Kochi in November 2009. AirAsia is currently the only carrier servicing this route.
With direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kerala’s commercial capital, three inbound agents agreed that it was easier to promote Kerala to the Malaysian market as a complete mono-holiday destination.
Indus Travel Company director, Punit Bhasin, said that without direct flights, Kerala only used to be part of a tour programme combining Chennai or Mumbai. Length of a typical stay used to be two nights, but has now increased to five nights.
He added that the direct flights had grown his business from the Malaysian market to Kerala by 50 per cent.
Go India Journeys manager, Australasia & Far East market, Kumar Guru, said his inbound business from Malaysia to Kerala has improved by at least 75 per cent.
He said AirAsia’s flights out of Kuala Lumpur to Kochi had also attracted traffic from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, The Philippines and Thailand to use Kuala Lumpur to connect to Kochi.
He said the biggest attractions for the Far East market to Kerala are Ayurveda treatments and cruising the backwaters in houseboats, also known as Kettuvalloms.
Pioneer Personalized Holidays director, Ranju Joseph, said the Malaysian traffic he received were mainly FIT travelers and this segment had grown by some 30 per cent.
He said: “This is also a price-sensitive market. Customer expectations of hotel properties do not match their perception of value, and this is our biggest challenge. We are now identifying better properties for the budget segment.”
Bhasin also agreed that the Malaysian market is price sensitive. He said his challenge is to create experiences with a small budget. “I believe more affluent travelers will start travelling to Kerala, as Ayurveda treatments become increasingly popular. It will then become easier to promote the destination, and people will be willing to spend more for their holiday experiences,” he said.