The Crusader of Responsible Tourism
Thiruvananthapuram: Once a strong antagonist against indiscriminate tourism activities at Kumarakom, K Rupeshkumar has now become the crusader of Responsible Tourism in Kerala. A very unassuming person, Rupesh has single-handedly brought in drastic changes in the mind-set of the various stakeholders of tourism fraternity as well as the local people in major tourism destinations by advocating the importance of following sustainable tourism practices. He developed a new tour package model Village Life Experience as part of Kerala Responsible Tourism which converts traditional livelihood activities as Tourism products. These packages have been recognised by the Government of India, as the best Rural Tourism Initiative.
Drawing on this experience, he was instrumental in developing PEPPER (People’s Participation for Participatory Tourism Planning and Empowerment through Responsible Tourism), which is now revolutionising the role of local self-governing bodies in promoting tourism. The State Coordinator of Kerala RT Mission, Rupeshkumar is one of the key leaders of RT in the whole world.
“Years ago, when tourism flourished in regions like Kumarakom, local people had high expectations. They dreamt of better livelihood and prosperity. However, what happened was exactly the opposite. Resentment started brewing gradually as the resort managements ignored local people. When they became mere victims of tourism, protests began. In 2007, the local body passed a resolution against construction of resorts at Kumarakom. That’s when the then State Government interferred and the idea of Responsible Tourism came up,” said Rupesh, who was one among the leaders of agitation then.
“Though the idea was generally accepted, there were stiff resistance from a section of people. After a series of deliberations, we were able to enter into a contract with resort managements for procurement of farm produce locally. Later, a forum of hotel general managers and local leaders was set up in which various issues were raised and addressed effectively. As you can see, Kumarakom has now become the capital of Kerala RT,” he added.
Rupeshkumar was recently bestowed with World Responsible Tourism Outstanding Achievement Award 2020 instituted by WTM London for his activities in the field of RT initiatives in Kerala since 2008. “Rupesh Kumar was instrumental in the implementation of RT initiatives in Kerala. His sincere efforts with the support of Kerala Government have made Kerala RT Mission a model for the rest of the world,” said Dr. Harold Goodwin, WTM RT Advisor and International Centre for Responsible Tourism Founder. The jury noted that the idea of Village Life Experience (VLE) from Kerala by Rupesh Kumar has paved the way for the development of a new sector in tourism called Experiential Tourism which is one of the major components in the world tourism market now.