Brand Saga: Kerala Tourism - Exploring God’s own country from the lens of advertising

Sneha Yadav
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Kerala Tourism advertising journey

Although the current times demand us to be a responsible traveler, it’s not a bad idea to treat ourself with a backpacking tour through some of the best ads created. This week, we go on an expedition to the Kerala Tourism advertising journey.

The world is crawling back to normalcy or rather has opened up arms for the new normal. Tourist destinations are bustling with ramped-up activities and wake-up calls for wanderers. At the start of 2021, Kerala too launched its ‘My First Trip 2021 campaign’ wherein it joined hands with travel influencers to promote tourism in the new normal. Let’s take a look at how smart marketing and targeted promotions have given a boost to the Kerala Tourism advertising journey.

A trip to Kerala – How did it start?

Initially known for its exotic spices that attracted traders from foreign lands, Kerala was about to null on the tourism radar. Lore has it that the first initiative to place Kerala on a tourist map was undertaken by Travencore’s Prince Consort Col. Godavarma Raja. He laid the foundations of Kerala Tours Limited to popularize key tourist locations in the Travancore Kingdom.

India attained freedom in 1947 and for about two decades Kerala wasn’t well equipped with the travel promotion missionary. In the 1960s, Kerala Tours Limited (KTL) collaborating with Thomas Cook with an objective to popularize the scenic locales of Kovalam in western countries which started the advent of hippie culture in Kovalam Beach.

As a result, the place witnessed a strong influx of tourists and eventually triggered the Kerala Government to consider tourism as a key industry and that the promotions of each hidden gem should be carried out on a larger scale. After KTL fell into some legal trouble, the government started a new entity known as Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) IN 1966.

It was formally in 1986 that the Government of Kerala declared tourism as an industry  recognizing the importance of tourism in stimulating the economic development of the state,

Move over the North Indian rave, KTDC’s primary objective was to direct the focus on this gem of a place from South India imbibing some lush greenery, pristine backwaters, beaches, picturesque hilly areas, and more. It was posted the early 1980s that Kerala gained the recognition to be on every traveler’s bucket list complemented by a strong marketing push led by KTDC.

Kerala Tourism Advertising Journey

Touted as one of the most peaceful places for living, before Corona hit the country, Kerala registered a footfall of approximately18 a million domestic tourists and one million foreign arrivals. Traveling portal recently ranked Kerala as the most welcoming region in India even amidst a deadly pandemic. The judgment was passed considering the elements of hospitality and friendliness in the region.

The immense popularity of Kerala since tourism kickstarted in the state is credited to a constant and well-structured marketing plan and well-crafted timely campaigns by the state tourism board in a bid to popularise the beauty and diversity it offers and also being the torchbearers of eco-tourism.


The advertising blueprint has been largely focused on bringing into fore the state’s rich culture, historic monuments, arcade temples, offbeat hilly towns, art architecture, and wildlife. Festivals and Ayurveda

Kerala, with its backwaters and houseboats, the beautiful legacy of temples and churches, famous as well as unexplored beaches, along with mountains, offers the tourists a wide variety of experiences, while still allowing them to sit right in the lap of nature.

The tale of tagline- God’s own country

How and why did Kerala score the tagline – God’s own country?

Lore has it that the tagline was coined by Walter Mendez, the then creative director of an Indian agency in 1989. The Kerala government had approached the agency to handle the creative and marketing mandate for Kerala Tourism Department. The aim was to place Kerala's high tourism potentialities on the global map and garner every traveler’s attention out there.

Another online data suggests that the term ‘God’s Own Country’ for Kerala was originally coined by Dr. Vipin Goyal who was also the mind behind the first Web page on Kerala. The tagline was touted to be the campaign’s prime focus for marketing the hidden gems of Kerala the= through travel magazines, periodicals, newspapers, and TV.

Although the origins of the tagline couldn’t be verified, its usage formed the highlight of all Kerala Tourism campaigns and soon became synonymous with the state. The impact was such that Kerala soon got recognized as one of the top holiday destinations in India.

Marketing For Kerala By Kerala

The Kerala Tourism Board kick-started aggressively marketing of its blissful destinations and not-so-explored places across the state including the green lushes, mountain peaks, backwaters, tea plantations, boat cruising, and much more.

Also Read: Brand Saga: 6-minutes that shaped the Gujarat Tourism advertising journey

Every medium of communication was tapped by the government and the tourism board especially the newspapers, magazines, and tourism periodicals initially to start the buzz around God’s own country and its tourist capabilities. The objective was clear and the thoughts were weaved into different videos crafted to showcase the enthralling beauty of the southern state to capture more eyeballs.


In 2009, Kerala Tourism launched an innovative mobile campaign to showcase unseen destinations in Kerala through a Mobile WAP campaign. The campaign was a success with more than 12.5 million ad impressions, as per the board.

In 2010, a video series of Forts and palaces adventures including some unknown backwaters of Kerala were filmed with a voiceover explaining why the place is a must-visit on every wanderer’s list.  

The same year saw Kerala Tourism launching a pathbreaking global campaign ‘Your Moment Is Waiting’ – a three-minute long film was broken into 25-second capsules to present different facets of Kerala to the viewers. The users were able to share the campaign video content with their friends and can also link the video to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The ad film was directed by Prakash Varma of Nirvana Films and was conceptualized by Stark Communications which managed the international marketing and promotion for Kerala Tourism then.

To augment its efforts in getting popular as a major tourist destination in India, Kerala Tourism launched the campaign using new-age devices like iPhone and iPad. The first phase of this campaign was used for the publicity of the Kerala Tourism movie; Your Moment is Waiting, in the UK, France, Germany, and US markets. iPhone and iPad users in these countries while typing 'travel' during the search were taken to the ad film.

From the enchanting caves of Wayanad to Thamarasserey mountain pass to the grand reverence of Kalpathi Chariot Festival in Palakkad to the calming beaches of Kerala, the board left no stone unturned in showcasing the rich heritage and culture of the state through Youtube videos and short ad films as the audience was slowly getting adapted to the ‘online content’ rage and brands were experimenting a lot with the Youtube phenomenon.

Kerala is renowned for some of its unique cultural and geographical characteristics. Keeping this as the core insight, Kerala Tourism next campaign titled ‘Life in God’s Own Country’ weaved a depiction of its practices and traditions handed down from generation to generation, alongside some of the natural wonders that we have been blessed with have attracted people to this land for centuries.

During 2010, while Stark Communications handled the advertising and branding for Kerala Tourism (Local, national and global), a suite of other agencies like Mudra, Hues, Valappila, Modern Graphics, Canvas, Crayons, Hues, and Group M were onboarded as per their expertise for events, local publicity, and new media.

The Great Backwaters campaign of 2013-14 conceived by Stark Communications opened to the world a doorway to witness a vast network of lakes, snake boat races, and watch over 200 species of birds. Apart from video and ad film promotions, the tourism board also went the social media way to launch a contest and amplify the marketing across the new age mediums.

As part of the campaign, the image from the aerial photography of the backwaters was revealed piece by piece with each tweet on hashtag #GreatBackwaters.  The Twitter campaign was followed by Facebook activities around the theme and a blogger outreach program.

The main aim of the campaign was to catapult the state’s backwaters into the league of the Grand Canyon and the Great Wall of China as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Be it the backwaters or the life beyond beaches in Kerala, the ad films have truly portrayed the natural beauty of Kerala in the most unfiltered format one can gaze. From exhibiting the beautiful legacy of temples and churches to introducing the consumers to its local flavors, unexplored destinations, while allowing them to experience the phenomenon that Kerala is.

The next chapter of the Kerala Tourism advertising journey explores more facets of the marketing saga that has and continues to paint an alurring picture of God's own country. Stay Tuned!

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