Thiruvananthapuram: Billed as the largest gathering of tourism stakeholders in India, the 2018 edition of Kerala Travel Mart will kick-start in Kochi on September 27 next year, Tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran said on Tuesday.

The three-day conclave, being organised by KTM Society in partnership with Kerala Tourism, will be held from September 28-30.

Malabar Tourism promotion will be the main theme of this edition.

"The 10th edition of KTM will be inaugurated coinciding with World Tourism Day (September 27) in Kochi. The inauguration will be followed by three-day business to business meetings," the minister told reporters here.

He said there is huge scope for tourism growth in Malabar with the inauguration of Kannur airport next year.

“The government planned to implement many projects in the Malabar region, the main one being the 'Nadhithada' tourism project that focuses on nine rivers in Northern Kerala," he said.

The government has already allotted Rs 38.5 crore for this project and the first phase has already started,he added.

KTM has contributed significantly to the development of tourism industry in the state.

"As the Responsible Tourism campaign is progressing, KTM's CSR initiative 'Agenda 9' is giving it a fresh impetus," he said.

The minister said the Responsible Tourism Mission has already started activities to spread its objectives to more places and make it a state-wide project, instead of concentrating it in a few places.

Kerala Tourism Principal Secretary Dr Venu V said KTM has emerged as the most prestigious commercial intervention of Kerala Tourism.

"There is more to KTM than trade exchanges. The mart will feature 400 stalls showcasing a range of products, packages and services offered by businesses and entrepreneurs."

He said that Public Private Partnership being the main highlight of KTM, it offers a platform for stakeholders, including tour operators, hotels, resorts, homestays, houseboats.

Ayurveda resorts and cultural art centres to have fruitful meetings and interactions with buyers from around the world.

KTM Society President Baby Mathew said the Society had adopted the comprehensive 9-point charter 'Agenda 9' during KTM 2016, which calls for measures to tackle waste management, promote organic farming, efficient use of energy and extensive use of local produce and products.

Other key areas in the checklist are rain-water harvesting, reducing use of plastics and improving greenery.

"The latest edition will focus on the Charter’s implementation aiming to make Kerala a sustainable destination", he said.

Tourism Director Bala Kiran said KTM was India's pride and can be placed in the same league with other international tourism fairs like ITB Berlin and FITUR.

"KTM is not only a venue for interaction between the national and international buyers, but also a platform to spread Kerala’s geographical space, expand the tourism product bouquet and promote the state as a 365-day tourism destination," he added.

Pre-registration of buyers will commence in January 2018.

A total of 638 domestic buyers from various parts of India and 238 international buyers from more than 57 countries attended the ninth edition of the mart, which also witnessed a large number of business meetings. PTI