Kerala, often hailed as “God’s Own Country,” transcends its picturesque landscapes to emerge as a global trailblazer in responsible tourism. In a significant milestone, Kerala Tourism has been bestowed with the esteemed Global Responsible Tourism Award 2023. This accolade, conferred by the Responsible Tourism Partnership and the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT), underscores Kerala’s remarkable commitment to sustainable practices and initiatives fostering inclusivity for women.
The Kerala Responsible Tourism Mission, an innovative venture launched in 2007, has made significant strides in reshaping the tourism industry. The state has been awarded the prestigious title of ‘Best for Local Sourcing – Craft and Food’ in recognition of this remarkable journey. Come along as we examine Kerala Tourism’s outstanding achievements and the industry implications of this award.
In 2008, the Responsible Tourism initiative was introduced on a trial basis in four destinations spanning diverse geographical regions within the State: Kovalam (beach), Kumarakom (backwaters), Thekkady (wildlife), and Wayanad (hill station). The strategy for implementing Responsible Tourism was devised through a participatory framework and executed through a consultative process, aligning with the fundamental principles of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council Criteria.
Empowering Women through Responsible Tourism
Kerala’s commitment to fostering responsible tourism is deeply rooted in its dedication to women’s empowerment. The state’s Responsible Tourist Mission has successfully integrated women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) into tourist activities. Beyond contributing to the local economy, this inclusion provides women with opportunities to actively participate in the tourism industry.
Kerala has effectively created a platform for female entrepreneurs to showcase their craftsmanship and culinary skills by selling indigenous products. This not only encourages economic self-sufficiency and independence among women in the region but also supports the preservation of regional cuisine and traditional art forms.
Sustainability at Its Core
Kerala’s approach to responsible tourism hinges on sustainability, showcasing a steadfast commitment to safeguarding its intangible cultural heritage, tangible legacy, and natural resources. This dedication positions Kerala as not only an exemplary model for India but also for global regions. Thanks to Kerala’s responsible tourism initiatives, travelers and the environment seamlessly coexist. The state’s focus on environmental preservation, eco-friendliness, and community engagement enables visitors to experience Kerala’s natural beauty with minimal environmental impact.
Global Recognition with Far-reaching Implications
Not only is Kerala proud to have won the Global Responsible Tourism Award 2023, but it also proves how popular responsible tourism initiatives are everywhere. Kerala’s remarkable achievements serve as a beacon of hope for other Indian states and nations around the globe.
The acknowledgement emphasises how crucial it is to protect the environment, culture, and legacy while making sure that the local population benefits from tourism. It acts as a guide for areas trying to create inclusive and sustainable tourist models. Kerala presents a future direction for the whole tourism sector by highlighting the positive relationship between responsible tourism and the empowerment of women and local communities.
A Comprehensive Approach
The Responsible Tourism Mission of Kerala adopts a holistic strategy to promote inclusivity and sustainability. Their projects cover a broad spectrum of industries and activities, such as food, handicrafts, and agriculture. In addition to supporting traditional businesses, the state guarantees that visitors can enjoy original flavours and bring back one-of-a-kind mementos by encouraging the sourcing of craft and cuisine from local suppliers.
The goal of the mission is to make a lasting and comprehensive difference in the lives of people and the environment, not only to earn accolades. It serves as a reminder that ethical travel is not a niche idea but rather a universal requirement, with Kerala setting the standard.
The Mission is envisaged with a ‘triple-bottom-line’ mission, which comprises economic, social, and environmental responsibilities. Making tourism a tool for the development of village and local communities, eradicating poverty, and giving emphasis to women empowerment are the main aims of the Responsible Tourism Mission. The mission aspires to provide an additional income and a better livelihood to farmers, traditional artisans, and marginalised people along with creating a social and environmental equilibrium.
(i) Street Project
STREET, a participatory tourism development initiative under the Responsible Tourism Mission, plans to revamp ten selected locations in Kerala, aligning with UNWTO’s “Tourism for Inclusive Growth” motto.
The project’s goal is to transform these destinations into Sustainable Living Responsible Tourism Villages, organized around thematic zones. STREET stands for Sustainable Tangible Responsible Experiential Ethnic Tourism Hubs.
The mission is to create thematic streets in emerging or rebranded tourist spots, showcasing local specialties and reducing over-concentration, ensuring sustainable development and broader benefits. This project emphasizes community involvement, preserving culture, and supporting rural development while expanding the tourism landscape.
The ‘People’s Participation For Participatory Planning And Empowerment Through Responsible Tourism’ (PEPPER) initiative strives to create fully structured responsible tourism destinations, revolutionising the industry.
Focused on sustainable development, PEPPER identifies undiscovered destinations with tourism potential and promotes their sustainable growth through local community engagement. It marks a pioneering effort in India, emphasising local community rights, environmental and cultural preservation, and holistic development.
Special Tourism Gramasabhas grant communities a substantial role in shaping tourism policies. PEPPER was inaugurated in Vaikom, Kottayam district, and aims to expand across the state in a phased manner.
A Glimpse into Eswatini’s Eco-Friendly Ngwenya Glass
Sharing the limelight with Kerala Tourism in this award is Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland. Eswatini’s recognition for eco-friendly Ngwenya Glass is a testament to the power of responsible tourism initiatives worldwide. Ngwenya Glass is known for its sustainable approach to glassblowing, promoting environmental conservation and local artistry. This joint win showcases how responsible tourism transcends borders and cultures.
Kerala Tourism’s receipt of the Global Responsible Tourism Award 2023 serves as a guiding light and a blueprint for the worldwide tourism industry. It underscores the imperative for sustainable and inclusive models that empower women, uplift local communities, and safeguards the natural and cultural heritage.
The success story of Kerala imparts invaluable lessons to regions globally, encouraging them to embrace responsible tourism practices and contribute to a more sustainable future for travelers, communities, and our planet. While celebrating Kerala’s well-deserved recognition, let us remember that responsible tourism is a fundamental commitment to the well-being of our planet, extending beyond a mere award-winning concept. Kerala’s ongoing efforts in responsible tourism have set a high standard and continue to pave the way for a more sustainable and responsible future for all.