Kerala is continuing its lead role in tourism with the ‘tourism for all’ approach, by involving all strata of its citizens to create variety tours for different levels of budget and making them accessible to even differently abled visitors. Responsible Tourism is no longer a choice but a compulsion for this naturally blessed region of India.
Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Tourism, Government of India, told at KTM 2016 in Kochi, that: “Travel and tourism is no longer considered a luxury. This paradigm is replaced by tourism for everyone at different levels. Being ethical and reaching tourism benefits far across communities is important. Kerala has done well because of experiences close to earth and nature.”
The southern Indian State has received UNWTO Ulysses Award for Excellence & Innovation in Tourism for its Village life experience project in Kumarakom. Village life experience is a government initiative created by Kerala Tourism in seven destinations across the state for economic, social and environmental sustainability. These experiential tours give tourists a chance to peek into lifestyles of simple, hardworking communities like farmers, tribes and artisans.
Rupeshkumar K, State Level Responsible Tourism Field Coordinator, Kerala Responsible Tourism Initiative, said: “It all started in 2008 as a result of revolt against spurt in tourism development in Kumarakom. Our study had shown that local purchases by those tourism projects at that time was nil. Today, after our initiative, purchases worth Rupees 15 million are sourced from the local community.”
The sense of belonging by the community adds to tourists’ positive experiences, attracting responsible travellers and benefitting all. It’s not just people that are involved in tourism but elephants are there too. Elephants are part of Kerala communities since ancient times as they are revered as auspicious and also used for logging. Almost 600 elephants are living in captivity either at temples or with those using them to assist in transporting huge logs of wood. Society for elephant welfare adopts responsible practices in offering Anakaryam package, an opportunity for tourist to interact with the gentle giants.
Nibha Namboodiri, trustee, Society for Elephant Welfare, said at a seminar on responsible tourism at KTM 2016 that: “The three hour program makes the elephant an ambassador. Tourists get to know the life of the giant, wash it, if it’s in a mood, know it’s relationship with the mahout and spend quality time with the elephant. The proceeds help in caring for the elephant, which otherwise is an expensive affair and often gets neglected.” Nibha is herself a trained mahout and the first lady to be one.
Kerala Tourism is working on making all their attractions disable friendly and promoting universal accessibility.
Kerala Travel Mart Society launched ‘Agenda 9’, a nine point charter at KTM 2016.
Jose Dominic, MD &CEO, cgh earth experience hotels, told eGTMedia: “These nine responsible tourism initiatives will be adopted at all levels by 600 KTM Society members. All will display the agenda at their outlets and we’ll regularly conduct workshops on effective practices of sustainability. This will give an assurance of quality to visitors.
Written by Anand & Madhura Katti