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Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.

Cricket and Cricket and football became popular in the state; both were introduced in Malabar during the British colonial period in the 19th century. Cricketers, like Tinu Yohannan, Abey Kuruvilla, Sreesanth, Sanju Samson and Basil Thampi found places in the national cricket team. A cricket club from Kerala, the Kochi Tuskers, played in the Indian Premier League's fourth season. However, the team was disbanded after the season because of conflicts of interest among its franchises.[499] Kerala has only performed well recently in the Ranji Trophy cricket competition, in 2017–18 reaching the quarterfinals for the first time in history.[497][500] Football is one of the most widely played and watched sports with huge support for club and district level matches. Kochi hosts Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League. The Blasters are one of the most widely supported clubs in the country as well as one of the most followed sports team from Asia in the social media.[501][502][503] Also, Kozhikode hosts Gokulam Kerala FC in the I-League as well as the Sait Nagjee Football Tournament. Kerala is one of the major footballing states in India along with West Bengal and Goa and has produced national players like I. M. Vijayan, C. V. Pappachan, V. P. Sathyan, Jo Paul Ancheri, Pappachen Pradeep, C.K. Vineeth, Anas Edathodika and Rino Anto.[504][505] The Kerala state football team has won the Santhosh Trophy six times; in 1973, 1992, 1993, 2001, 2004, and 2018. They were also the runners-up eight times.[506]

Among the prominent athletes hailing from the state are P. T. Usha, Shiny Wilson and M.D. Valsamma, all three of whom are recipients of the Padma Shri as well as Arjuna Award, while K. M. Beenamol and Anju Bobby George are Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award winners. T. C. Yohannan, Suresh Babu, Sinimol Paulose, Angel Mary Joseph, Among the prominent athletes hailing from the state are P. T. Usha, Shiny Wilson and M.D. Valsamma, all three of whom are recipients of the Padma Shri as well as Arjuna Award, while K. M. Beenamol and Anju Bobby George are Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award winners. T. C. Yohannan, Suresh Babu, Sinimol Paulose, Angel Mary Joseph, Mercy Kuttan, K. Saramma, K. C. Rosakutty, Padmini Selvan and Tintu Luka are the other Arjuna Award winners from Kerala.[497][507] Volleyball is another popular sport and is often played on makeshift courts on sandy beaches along the coast.[508] Jimmy George was a notable Indian volleyball player, rated in his prime as among the world's ten best players.[509] Other popular sports include badminton, basketball and kabaddi.[510] The Indian Hockey team captain P. R. Shreejesh, ace goalkeeper hails from Kerala.

For the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Kochi), was chosen as one of the six venues where the game would be hosted in India.[511] Greenfield International Stadium at located at Kariavattom in Thiruvananthapuram city, is India's first DBOT (design, build, operate and transfer) model outdoor stadium and it has hosted international cricket matches and international football matches including 2015 SAFF Championship.

Kerala's culture and traditions, coupled with its varied demographics, have made the state one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. In 2012, National Geographic's Traveller magazine named Kerala as one of the "ten paradises of the world"[512][513] and "50 must see destinations of a lifetime".[514] Travel and Leisure also described Kerala as "One of the 100 great trips for the 21st century".[512][515] In 2012, it overtook the Taj Mahal to be the number one travel destination in Google's search trends for India.[516] CNN Travel listed Kerala amongst its '19 best places to visit in 2019'.[517]

Kerala's beaches, backwaters, lakes, mountain ranges, waterfalls, ancient ports, palaces, religious institutions[518]

Kerala's beaches, backwaters, lakes, mountain ranges, waterfalls, ancient ports, palaces, religious institutions[518] and wildlife sanctuaries are major attractions for both domestic and international tourists.[519] The city of Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourists in Kerala.[520][521] Until the early 1980s, Kerala was a relatively unknown destination compared to other states in the country.[522] In 1986 the government of Kerala declared tourism an important industry and it was the first state in India to do so.[523] Marketing campaigns launched by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, the government agency that oversees the tourism prospects of the state, resulted in the growth of the tourism industry.[524] Many advertisements branded Kerala with the tagline Kerala, God's Own Country.[524] Kerala tourism is a global brand and regarded as one of the destinations with highest recall.[524] In 2006, Kerala attracted 8.5 million tourists, an increase of 23.68% over the previous year, making the state one of the fastest-growing popular destinations in the world.[525] In 2011, tourist inflow to Kerala crossed the 10-million mark.[526]

Ayurvedic tourism has become very popular since the 1990s, and private agencies have played a notable role in tandem with the initiatives of the Tourism Department.[522] Kerala is known for its ecotourism initiatives which include mountaineering, trekking and bird-watching programmes in the Western Ghats as the major activities.[527] The state's tourism industry is a major contributor to the state's economy, growing at the rate of 13.31%.[528] The revenue from tourism increased five-fold between 2001 and 2011 and crossed the 190 billion mark in 2011. According to the Economic Times[529] Kerala netted a record revenue of INR 36,528.01 crore from the tourism sector in 2018, clocking an increase of Rs 2,874.33 crore from the previous year. Over 16.7 million tourists visited Kerala in 2018 as against 15.76 million the previous year, recording an increase of 5.93 per cent. The industry provides employment to approximately 1.2 million people.[526]

The state's only drive-in beach, Muzhappilangad in Kannur, which stretches across five kilometres of sand, was chosen by the BBC as one of the top six drive-in beaches[530] in the world in 2016. Idukki Dam, the world's second arch dam, and Asia's first is at Idukki. The major beaches are at Kovalam, Varkala, Kozhikode, Fort Kochi, Cherai, Alappuzha, Payyambalam, Kappad, Muzhappilangad and Bekal. Popular hill stations are at Ponmudi, Wayanad, Wagamon, Munnar<

The state's only drive-in beach, Muzhappilangad in Kannur, which stretches across five kilometres of sand, was chosen by the BBC as one of the top six drive-in beaches[530] in the world in 2016. Idukki Dam, the world's second arch dam, and Asia's first is at Idukki. The major beaches are at Kovalam, Varkala, Kozhikode, Fort Kochi, Cherai, Alappuzha, Payyambalam, Kappad, Muzhappilangad and Bekal. Popular hill stations are at Ponmudi, Wayanad, Wagamon, Munnar, Peermade, Ramakkalmedu, Paithalmala of Kannur district and Nelliampathi.[531] Munnar is 4,500 feet above sea level and is known for tea plantations, and a variety of flora and fauna.[532] Kerala's ecotourism destinations include 12 wildlife sanctuaries and two national parks: Periyar Tiger Reserve, Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary, Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary, Eravikulam National Park, and Silent Valley National Park are the most popular among them.[533] The Kerala backwaters are an extensive network of interlocking rivers (41 west-flowing rivers), lakes, and canals that centre around Alleppey, Kumarakom and Punnamada (where the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held in August), Pathiramanal a small island in Muhamma . Padmanabhapuram Palace and the Mattancherry Palace are two nearby heritage sites.[534][535] Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram holds the record as the wealthiest place of worship in the world, with assets of at least 1.2 trillion (equivalent to 2.0 trillion or US$28 billion in 2019).

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