Kumarakom, Kerala, 12 November 2017. The world’s first state-wide responsible tourism (RT) mission has been opened in Kerala, India. Aimed at promoting people-friendly, local community-friendly and environment-friendly initiatives it is tasked with boosting rural development, local employment opportunities and the empowerment of women.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said at the inauguration of the new office that waste management should be a prime consideration in any development program, particularly tourism.
“The tourist spots and places around the state should be kept clean at all times without asking for additional cost; this should be a practice by itself,” he added. Vijayan said the tourism department should make arrangements to accommodate the number of tourists that arrive into Kerala, and to handle the side effects of their arrival and lifestyles – including waste disposal.
The initiative was run as a pilot in 2008, in the village of Kumarakom. Feedback from the local village panchayat (assembly) was sufficiently positive that it was decided to expand the project statewide. Apart from improving the facilities for tourists, the government says it also aims to use tourism as a tool for village development and empowerment of women, as well as bringing benefits with job opportunities and income generation.
A significant part of this will be the Village Life Experience Packages which have already seen significant success in attracting tourists. They offer tourists a selection of rope-making, handloom, earthenware and toddy tapping experiences. This both ensures more ways of income to the local community, but also maintains traditional skills, handicraft activities and classical art forms as part of tourism.
As part of the RT initiative, vocational training will be provided to at least 50,000 local people, and some 20 Village Life Experience Packages set up. These will look to promote extra income and livelihood opportunities for agricultural labourers, traditional industrial workers and marginalised communities in the selected areas, with the objective of : “giving equal importance to social-environmental parity,” added Director of Kerala Tourism, Bala Kiran.
“We need to appreciate [responsible tourism] completely, for it is a source of support for our local communities,” he said, adding that Kerala was famous for its serenity and greenery, which were both positive influences on the success of the local tourism industry,” said Vijayan.
Kiran said the new project would kick off with the establishment of dedicated new RT cells in 14 districts across the state. “We have almost 35 destinations already [promoting] RT across Kerala,” he said. The government plans to create 150,000 employment opportunities in the tourism sector over the next five years, centred on tourism sectors like backwater channels, sea, wildlife, heritage and diversity in areas comprising natural beauty.
Addressing the gathering, Dr Venu V IAS Principal Secretary Kerala Tourism said, “Within a span of nine years, 16 crores is the profit Kumarakom could gain through tourism. Around 1.16 crore revenue is generated by the localities. The reason behind this growth is the involvement as a group by the communities around. The aim of RT is to create 1.5 lakh jobs in the future.”