Kerala, the beautiful State in India is a favourite destination of tourists across the globe thanks to its immensely rich wildlife, pristine greenery, rugged mountain ranges, serene country life and so forth.
The rich natural resources, scores of scholars, skilled professionals, highly supportive entrepreneurial community and local-self-governments, small-scale ventures, responsible media and a responsive tourism industry makes the State a classic destination in which to enact and enforce 'Responsible Tourism.'
Kerala initiated Responsible Tourism in February 2007 with the State level consultative meeting titled ‘Better Together’. The State Level Responsible Tourism Committee (SLRTC) became responsible for planning and executing the RT programmes through the Department of Tourism (DoT) and the Destination Level Responsible Tourism Committees (DLRTC) planned and executed destination level programmes under the control of SLRTC.
2008 – 2010 June
As a pilot phase, Responsible Tourism (RT), a pioneering and sweeping concept of Kerala Tourism was implemented in four destinations viz. Kovalam, Kumarakom, Thekkady and Wayanad in which Kumarakom was developed as a successful model. Thus RT became a milestone in the tourism sector of the State in its first phase itself.
On the 2nd and 3rd of February, 2007 several stakeholders, including representatives from the government, local-self-governments, tourism industry, civil society organisations, academicians, media and also members of the Legislative Assembly participated in a state-level consultation on Responsible Tourism organised in connection with the International Centre for Responsible Tourism - India (ICRT India) and EQUATIONS (Equitable Tourism Options) by the Department of Tourism at Thiruvananthapuram. The workshop concluded with the formation of a state-level committee - the State Level Responsible Tourism Committee (SLRTC).
The field level activities started in January 2008 and RT officially launched on 14th March 2008 at Kumarakom. The RT initiative was started via Kudumbasree units, Department of Tourism positioned four RT Consultants in Kudumbashree at Kumarakom, Thekkady, Kovalam and Wayanad.
Even though the State Level Responsible Tourism Committee held on 20th April 2007 brought forward the above-mentioned destinations as the initial target locations to implement Responsible Tourism, the actual execution began only in March 2008. In August 2008, Great India Tourism Planners and Consultants (GITPAC) was assigned to provide technical aid for this.
A stakeholder workshop held at Kumarakom on 16th May 2007 initiated Responsible Tourism in Kumarakom and on 14th March 2008, Mr. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Hon. Minister for Tourism, Home and Vigilance formally inaugurated the initiative. The supply of local products started being sent to hotels and resorts on 18th March 2008 on the basis of a cluster approach with 11 products.
In Wayanad, the implementation of Responsible Tourism started with a stakeholder workshop on 6th May 2007 and in January 2008 RT was initiated there. The whole district was selected for pilot intervention in the beginning but later taking into account the difficulties of the extensive area for implementation, it was limited to Vythiri cluster that includes Vythiri, Kalpetta, Pozhuthana and Meppadi panchayaths. Samrudhi group and Kudumbashree associated with the implementation.
In the third destination Kovalam, the workshop with the stakeholders was held on 8th May 2000. The workshop at Thekkady was held on 23rd June 2007 at The Periyar House with the participation of the stakeholders. Destination Level Responsible Tourism Committee (DLRTC) was formed as part of the discussions conducted in each of these destinations.
2011 – 2017
The second phase of Responsible Tourism was launched in Kumarakom in March 2012. In the second phase the four destinations selected in the first phase successfully continued their journey and besides this three more destinations were added to this phase. The destinations were Kumbalangi in Ernakulam, Ambalavayal in Wayanad and Bekal in Kasaragod. The destinations worked as business units.
From 2011 February, RT cells were placed at all destinations for taking up RT activities and were facilitated through KITTS. RT focuses on promoting tourism that does not cause any ecological or social damage and also provides support for travelers, local population and traders to acquire great benefits from tourism. With its overwhelming successes, around 50 more destinations were selected in the second phase. The Government has also decided to widen the programme into 112 Local Self Government areas under the broad heading “God’s Own Country, People’s Own Tourism”. But project RT functioned as a parallel system without much connection to the official working of the Department at state and district level and later the government decided to form Responsible Tourism Mission for expanding RT activities all over Kerala.
Aimed at the development of local communities and growth of tourism in the State, Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala launched the Responsible Tourism Mission on 20th October 2017.
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. As part of the Mission, around 50,000 local residents will get trained in several activities and productions. The DoT hopes to provide direct employment to around 1,00,000 people in the tourism sector alone with the support of RT Mission.
As part of RT Mission, around 20 Village Life Packages that take the tourists on a trip through the traditional handicraft productions of Kerala such as coir, handloom and pottery will be introduced soon.
By making the traditional artforms, rituals and handicrafts of God’s Own Country a part of tourism, RT aims to provide more benefits to the local community.
RT Mission was formed with the objective of developing tourism with more popular, sustainable and responsible tourism techniques. As a part of this within 5 years, 1,00,000 people will get employment in agriculture, production, sale, trade of traditional products, production and distribution of handicrafts and souvenirs, tourism packages, accessible tourism, resource mapping, publication of the tourism resource directory, cultural packages, waste management in destinations, RT network, cultural forum, RT Human Resource Directory for enabling employment in tourism sector, mobile applications for the same, and online platforms.
The activities of RT will now be completely handled by RT Mission and RT Mission is the nodal agency for implementing RT all over Kerala. Kerala Tourism Policy has RT principles as its base. It is vital to the Department to establish RT activities. This can be done by taking the principle of RT to the entire field of tourism activities and motivating the tourism service providers to take up the RT principles in their businesses. The principles of the first phase have been applied to the entire State. RT Mission was formed under the leadership of the Director 0f Tourism with well defined functional autonomy. With the introduction of the Responsible Tourism Mission, 14 districts of the State became a part it.