Kochi: Despite being a working day, crowds thronged the Samudrika and Sagara Convention Centre on Friday as KTM 2016, the ninth edition of the Kerala Travel Mart, opened its doors to the general public. 

From trying their hand at archery with the traditional bow and handcrafted arrows at the ‘Responsible Tourism’ pavilion to taking selfies from the jeep at the Kerala Tourism stall, visitors were spoilt for choice at the venue with an array of interactive activities.

“I was unable to make it for the last edition, so I’m happy to have had the opportunity to attend this year’s KTM with my family and friends. Though we were not here for business, it was a wonderful, welcoming atmosphere,” said Safeer Abu Backer, who made a five hour-drive to the city from Kozhikode in the morning just to attend the Mart.

This was a common refrain on Friday alongside a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as visitors sampled the offerings at the 265 seller stalls open at the venue. There were chuckles to be had as students posed for a ‘marriage photo’ at a stall themed on wedding destinations. A virtual-reality experience offering 360 degree views of vistas around Kerala proved especially popular.

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Besides being a fun outing, for many the trip was a chance to learn something new. The KTM, being the largest tourism industry conclave in the state and with ‘God’s Own Country’ as its sole focus, is a one-stop shop for everything Kerala has to offer.

“We didn’t know some of these places existed in Kerala. The hall has so many interesting attractions. As soon as the final bell sounded, we came here to kick off our weekend,” said Jerry Mathew, part of a large group of Grade 10 students from Aluva.

Neethu Nair and her friends wandered the aisles of the museum at the ‘Muziris and Spice Route’ pavilion. Looking at photographs and documentation from the excavation site at Pattanam, the young group of arts students from a city college were awe-struck.

“I have wanted to visit the site to take a walk back in time. This museum was a good warm-up for that trip. I’m glad we decided to come here today,” she said.

As the day winded down, the question could be heard: When is the next KTM?