SUBJECT : Kerala State tourism to become more responsible

Thiruvananthapuram, May 9th: Riding on the significant community benefits it reaped from responsible tourism (RT) over the last few years, the state tourism department has decided to give more attention to RT initiatives at various destinations in the current fiscal.

The focus would be on augmenting local production and supply to meet the industry requirements. The latest figures have put the revenue generated at six destinations through local sourcing over the last three years at Rs 10.94 crore, benefitting around 1,600 families, with Thekkady on top generating Rs 4.83 crore followed by Kumarakom (Rs 4.3 crore). Kumarakom also came out with most number of village life experience (VLE) packages during these years, while Wayanad has the most number of families benefitted.
"The department could involve self-help groups like Kudumbashree units for production and supply of quality products (milk, grocery, vegetables, flowers, souvenirs etc) to hotels in these destinations," said a top tourism official. RT would have a major thrust this fiscal, coinciding with 'Visit Kerala Year' and 'safe and clean destinations' campaigns, he said.
It was in 2008 that the department launched RT as a pilot project, covering four destinations - Kovalam, Kumarakom, Thekkady and Vythiri, with an objective of making these destinations 'better places for people to visit and live'. In 2012, the state's RT destinations list got updated incorporating Ambalavayal, Bekal and Kumbalangi, and again in 2015 with the addition of Muziris.

When Thekkady secured the inaugural Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) award as world's top emerging destination in 2015, the tourism department had termed it as the result of a 'fruitful public-private partnership involving local communities'.

"The hoteliers had been a bit apprehensive in the initial stage about local procurement. But, now they are demanding more and are involving local people in many activities and services," the official pointed out.

Besides the thrust on local production, procurement and supply and on providing support services like laundry, the RT promotes establishment of micro enterprises and SMEs, which can minimize the economic leakages and maximize the linkage effects.

In, 2015, the state earned Rs 6,949 crore as foreign exchange from around 9.77 lakh foreign tourists. "These tourists, on an average have spent a minimum of Rs 40,000 each for buying things. RT's huge potential lies in these figures," the official said, stressing the need for active involvement of all the stakeholders including local self-governments, community members, farmers' groups, Kudumbashree, NGOs and other voluntary organizations.

Source: Times of India