Kerala’s Responsible Tourism Initiative Wins Laurels at WTM
London: Kerala Tourism’s Responsible Tourism initiative at Kumarakom received a mega push at the global level with the initiative being honoured with World Responsible Tourism Award at World Travel Market 2017 London on the occasion of World Responsible Tourism Day on November 8.
Among the 12 finalists, Kumarakom received the ‘Highly Recommended’ recognition. According to Harold Goodwin, WTM Responsible Tourism Advisor, the judging panel was impressed by the scale of achievement in securing benefits for the local community and by the zero waste and cleanliness campaigns. “Judges were also impressed by Kerala’s new state-level Responsible Tourism (RT) Mission and the efforts being made to extend the initiative across Kerala to benefit many more communities and to measure and report impacts,” he informed.
Kadakampally Surendran, Kerala Tourism Minister, received the award in the presence of Dr. Venu V IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Tourism, Kerala and P Bala Kiran IAS, Director, Kerala Tourism.The Minister, who led the State’s delegation to the world’s leading travel trade event, said the award was a recognition for the government’s efforts to ensure people’s participation in tourism activities.
Kerala Tourism delegation also included 12 private exhibitor-partners namely Alhind Tours and Travels, Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty, Jayasree Travels and Tours Company, Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), Kumarakom Lake Resort, Pioneer Personalized Holidays, Punarnava Ayurveda, Raviz Hotels and Resorts, Spiceland Holidays, Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel and Spa (UDS), and Xandari Resorts. Rashmi Verma IAS, Secretary, Union Ministry of Tourism visited the Kerala pavilion and interacted with the sellers.
“The visit to WTM London has been an eye-opener for me. Having seen the huge show, now I strongly feel that we can do much more to promote Kerala Tourism through these global travel events. From the trade partners, I understood that Kerala pavilion drew good response compared to previous years. From next year onwards, the State pavilion will be made more dynamic and attractive by incorporating various live shows so as to support the trade in selling their products.”
– Kadakampally Surendran, Tourism Minister, Kerala
A special session on ‘Kerala’s Responsible Tourism Mission’ was also held at WTM. Addressing the session, Dr. Venu said under RT Mission, Kerala has developed a community tourism network to include the local community not just as a participant, or even as a beneficiary, but as a leader. “We have launched RT Mission with an objective of generating more employment and income for the local community at various destinations across Kerala. The focus has always been on promoting socially relevant and environment-friendly activities,” he added.
Jose Dominic, CEO, CGH Earth Group, who also took part in the session, shared the story of Coconut Lagoon, which itself was a pioneer of Kerala’s RT initiatives. He explained how CGH Earth had made the difference by making the property zero waste, has its water needs served entirely from rainwater harvesting, and is now even preserving and reintroducing the endemic Vechur cow species, while engaging its guests in all these stories. “It is essential for tourism to move away from a business model where companies commit two per cent to CSR and ‘good works’, which means they can just do whatever they want with the rest of their business. Instead, we need to design companies to be sustainable and ‘purposeful’ in the way they operate their core business,” he argued.
The Minister earlier inaugurated the Kerala pavilion and launched the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) 2018 brochure. Conceptualised and designed by Stark Communications, the stall was themed around backwaters and houseboats. The backwaters were brought to life through a two-minute film that was shot using a 360-degree technology. Visitors were invited to don a VR headset and get virtually transported to a boat cruising on the tranquil waters, listening to conversations of local people going about their daily lives and watching picturesque coconut palms, rolling paddy fields, birds, the sunset and other enchanting sights.
Kerala Tourism also conducted Partnership Meets at Manchester, Birmingham and Gatwick. “We have had excellent response from buyers at the WTM as well as the three road shows held in the UK. I hope this will result in achieving our aim of increasing the number of tourists coming to Kerala not just from the UK but also from the rest of Europe,” Bala Kiran said.
Kerala Tourism’s participation at WTM assumes much significance as the State received 1,55,548 tourists from the UK last year, accounting for 17 per cent of the total foreign tourist arrivals to the State. Representatives of the trade included Riaz Ahmed, MD, Abad Hotels & Resorts; Ranju Joseph, Director, Pioneer Personalized Holidays; Wilson Mathew, Vice President, Intersight Tours and Travels; Ramesh Kumar, Corporate General Manager, UDS; Zafar Karmali, Director of Sales, Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty; Riyaz U C, MD, Spiceland Holidays; Dr. A M Anvar, MD, Punarnava Ayurveda; Ajit Krishnan Nair, General Manager, The Raviz Calicut; Mohammed Haris, Director, Alhind Tours and Travels; Jobin Joseph, Partner, Spice Routes Luxury Cruises and Mathews Varghese, MD, The Eastend Hospitality.