RT Mission: Kerala’s successful rural tourism model

As the world observes the 2020 edition of the World Tourism Day with the theme “Tourism and Rural Development”, Kerala – India’s southwestern state known for its splendid backwaters, has already turned a role model in making tourism a tool for development of its village and local communities.

Thanks to the ‘Responsible Tourism Mission’ initiative which it launched in October 2017 itself, Kerala could ensure local participation in its tourism development activities. Projects like PEPPER’ (People’s Participation for Planning and Empowerment through Responsible Tourism) helped in discovering unexplored destinations rich with tourism potentials as farmers, Kudumbashree workers, handicraft artisans, home-stay owners and tribal artists, all got empowered socially and economically.

“A total of 48 new tourist destinations were identified and developed under the initiative so far. Local residents too benefitted immensely as they were able to find new employment opportunities and revenue sources. For instance, nearly 5500 people were so far trained in job-oriented skills such as manufacturing of paper bags, cloth bags, organic farming and tourism-related services like tour operators, guides and home cuisines,” said K Rupesh Kumar, state RT Mission Co-ordinator.

Similarly, ‘Experiential tour packages’ opened a whole new realm of opportunities for tourists to get a good look at the every day village life, may it be the naive crafts or traditional artforms/culture. Far away from the hustle bustle of city life, the rural land decked with tranquil backwaters, green carpeted paddy fields, swaying coconut palms, small fishing hamlets and unique artforms is an experience to cherish forever.

“As of now, we’re offering 140 Experiential tour packages covering the nook and corner of the state. At least 850 families directly benefit by the programme. In the last three years, 64, 800 foreign tourists and 24, 812 domestic tourists availed the package, providing local communities a revenue around Rs 3.5 crore. The latest to include under the package was night life activities.

The Kerala Tourism department also rolled out the ‘Experience Ethnic Cuisine’ project, which envisages dishing out unique culinary traditions of the state to woo foreign tourists. “As many as 2012 households across the 14 districts has registered under the programme. The households would welcome the guests in the traditional way and serves delicious foods. We’ve taken several measures to ensure the quality and safety of the dishes. We’ve implemented the first phase of the project. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all these activities in between but now we’re resuming all of them in a phased manner,” the official said.

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