Thiruvananthapuram: Cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Steve Waugh, actress Deepika Padukone, and footballer Didier Drogba are possible names being considered as goodwill ambassadors for promoting Kerala Tourism across the globe.

Tendulkar, Waugh, Padukone and Drogba are among those being considered for the role, said informed sources.

State Tourism Minister A.P. Anil Kumar was, however, tight-lipped about the possible names but said that the time has come for an aggressive promotion campaign as numerous states in the country, besides Sri Lanka, are going ahead full steam to promote their own destinations.

"Please do not ask me about names because then things will become difficult. Certainly, big names are on our drawing board... please give us some more time and then the picture will become clear," he said.

The minister's reluctance came after the fiasco during the previous Left government's tenure when his predecessor Kodiyeri Balakrishnan announced megastar Amitabh Bachchan as the state tourism ambassador and then the government itself withdrew the offer.

Tourism has by now become the fastest-growing industry in the state, with the number of visitors also recording an increase. The number of international tourists grew from 6.50 lakh in 2010 to 7.3 lakh in 2011 while the number of domestic tourists grew from 85 lakh to 93 lakh.

A film on the state, prepared in 2010, turned out to be hugely successful and was premiered at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Among those present on the occasion were soccer stars Didier Drogba and Gary Lineker, athlete Christine Ohuruogu, and actors Dev Patel, Bill Nighy, and Samantha Morton, to name a few.

Former Australian captain Steve Waugh, on a visit to the state recently to promote a financial services company, had then expressed interest to promote Kerala Tourism in his country if a request came from the state.

Fresh from the recently concluded Arabia Travel Mart, tourism industry leader E.M. Najeeb agreed that goodwill ambassadors from places where Kerala Tourism has to be promoted are a good idea.

"The idea of appointing brand ambassadors abroad is good but should be done in a cost-effective manner. There is no point in having an ambassador by blowing away a huge chunk of the tourism budget. The ideal situation should be to invite icons from abroad to visit our state and then use it as a promotion material in their country. It was foolish to lose Amitabh Bachchan, and it would be good if he can still be roped in," he said.

 

(Agencies)

 

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