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Kerala Tourism launches "Bring Home a Friend" scheme


Kerala Tourism has launched the "Bring Home a Friend" scheme under which non-resident Keralites (NRKs) can invite friends from their places of stay to Kerala and earn a free holiday back home for themselves.


The initiative involving the Malayalee diaspora for promoting tourism in the state was launched on Wednesday by the Kerala Tourism department along with an Audio Guide for tourist destinations in the state.


The Audio Guide initiative, which is the first by a state in India to cover all the tourist destinations and also in multiple languages, allows a visitor to receive audio tours of the state's tourist destinations on their mobile phones by dialling a dedicated number.


Both initiatives are part of the tourism department's efforts to use technology to promote tourism.


The two initiatives were inaugurated by Kerala Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan at a function in Thiruvananthapuram where various efforts of the tourism department to use technology for promoting tourism were showcased. Senior journalists and industry leaders were invited to the function.


First proposed by Mr Balakrishnan at a conference of NRKs held in Kochi in December last year, the Bring Home a Friend initiative allows Malayalees living in other states and abroad to invite their friends and colleagues to the state for earning reward points, which in turn could be redeemed for their own visit to Kerala.


The initiative will involve NRKs, outside the country as well as within India, and government accredited tour operators in the state. The tourism department has already introduced an online system for accrediting tour operators and has created a web-based platform that links NRKs and service providers.


Under the initiative, NRKs will need to first register on the homepage for Bring Home a Friend on the Kerala Tourism website (www.keralatourism.org/bhf/). The facility for registration of NRKs is presently functional. The first phase of registration process will continue till March 1 and NRKs who register before that will get early registration surprise gifts through a draw of lots, a press release, a press release from Kerala Tourism said.


Once the registration is over, the NRKs can refer their friends to the same website. Each reference will be automatically forwarded to three accredited tour operators, who in turn will present their packages to the prospective visitors. The system will automatically award an NRK, who has thus referred a friend successfully (meaning the friend has visited Kerala), points at ten per cent equivalent of the package value, excluding flights.


The NRK will have the advantage of redeeming the aggregate points by availing a holiday in Kerala or can gift this holiday entitlement to friends or relatives.


"Kerala has a wide diaspora population who are working in several countries and other Indian states. Many people ask their Malayalee colleagues about Kerala. We decided to use their contacts to establish a link with tour operators in the state and have structured a reward system as well in line with the popular mileage schemes offered by airline companies," said Kerala Tourism Director M Sivasankar.


The Audio Guide is a recorded, spoken commentary of the major tourist locations of Kerala to help the tourists have a self-guided tour of the state. The audio tour guide service by Kerala Tourism, in association with Mobile VAS major MobME Wireless Solutions, can be availed by dialling the 10 digit number 9048755555. The Kerala Tourism conceived the Audio Guide project and identified the technology partner from among the mobile service providers through a competitive process. Telecom major Vodafone has emereged as the technology partner and had offered server space, dedicated E1 Line and dedicated number with user friendly IVR.


Once a visitor has dialled the 10-digit number, she or he will be prompted to enter the unique identification number of the particular tourist destination (The unique Identification numbers will be displayed on the phone screen). When the number is entered, the Audio Guide will give information about the history and cultural heritage of the site. Description of specific tourist spots and details of exhibits at a place can also be listened to by entering the code number displayed next to the exhibit.


"Audio Guide is a path-breaking initiative in the country. The idea is that everybody today has a cell phone, so instead of hiring an expensive head phone-based audio guide about a tourist spot, you only need to pay for a phone call. At the same time, it has all the facilities of a head phone-based audio guide, said Keralas Tourism Secretary V Venu.


"The Audio Guide is well structured and user-friendly. The audio tour will enable the users to fast forward, rewind, pause and replay the description. The Audio Guide can be accessed from any part of the globe 24 X 7. Calls will be charged at standard call rates only. All the information will be available on the same platform, in multiple languages, including English, Hindi, Malayalam," he added.


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