Thiruvananthapuram: The second phase activities of project PEPPER (People’s Participation for Participatory Planning and Empowerment through Responsible Tourism) that ensures local participation in tourism development will be extended to 12 new centres across the State, said Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran in the capital on Saturday. “An initiative by Responsible Tourism Mission (RT), PEPPER will be implemented in two local self-government institutions at Vaikkom in Kottayam district and 10 other centres this month,” the Minister said. He was inaugurating a function organised to felicitate RT Mission units, which have become a major instrument for providing benefits of travel and hospitality to the common people and also stood solidly behind the authorities during the recent calamitous floods. Farmers, handicrafts makers, artists, entrepreneurs of farm-stays as well as home-stays and tour guides who are either directly or indirectly part of the RT Mission were given away certificates by the Minister at the function. Noting that the RT Mission is a vital component of tourism, the minister said through the various units of RT Mission, 27,470 people directly and 43,952 people indirectly have benefited. “After setting up the RT Mission in July 2017, the income generated by the units registered with RT Mission stood at Rs 5.35 crore between August 2017 and October 2018. Meanwhile, the recent flood has prevented income from going up,” he pointed out. “RT Mission has implemented 477 packages in one year and around 30,422 tourists reached selected villages of Kerala through these packages. As a result, traditional workers of the villages could earn an income of Rs 48 lakh,” the Minister added. On the occasion, the Minister also unveiled the e-brochure of RT Mission. State RT Mission coordinator K Rupeshkumar presented a report. K Muraleedharan, MLA, in his presidential address, remarked that hartals in the State have become a curse for the tourism sector and all parties should agree to pass a state law to curb it. E M Najeeb, member of National Tourism Advisory Council; P K Anish Kumar, Member, Kerala Tourism Advisory Committee; M Reghudasan, Additional Director, Hospitality, Tourism were also present. RT, which has 11,532 units under it, has carried out an array of projects over the last one year with poverty alleviation, women empowerment and local area development as its major objectives. The units have spread operations to places across the state, including remote belts of upstate Kannur and Kasargod districts, besides the key RT spots of Kumarakom, Thekkady and Wayanad. The RT Mission’s initiatives have already fetched Kerala Tourism several international recognitions, including the maiden gold medal at the prestigious World Travel Market (WTM) in London earlier this month.