Responsible Tourism

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The Kerala Responsible Tourism Initiative-
A Work in Progress

Dr Venu V., Secretary, Kerala Tourism

The growth of tourism across the world has been spectacular – in the last 10 years, tourism industry recorded a growth of over 10%, accounting for 10% of the world’s economic activity and is one of the main employment creating sectors. UNWTO is predicting over 1500 million international arrivals by 2020, over double the present level. UNEP and UNWTO have encouraged policy makers to adopt strategies, policies and tools of sustainable development. In summary, these are about strengthening the benefits through tourism while minimizing the costs. There is also the realization that tourism can play a role in addressing poverty, by bringing sources of income closer to some of the poorest communities. Governments have to play a leading role in the process of sustainability – as the authority of regulation, the body responsible for public assets and resources affected by tourism, and as policy makers.

Kerala has recorded remarkable levels of growth in tourism arrivals in recent years. Kerala recorded 6.5 million domestic tourists and 4.28 foreign tourists arrival in the year 2006, the average annual growth in domestic tourists is more than 18 % over the past decade. The annual growth rate for foreign tourist arrivals is over 20%, and over 5% for domestic tourists. Government has recognized the potential of tourism to provide employment, to raise resources and to become a prominent economic sector in the state’s economy. Improvement in infrastructure, better air connectivity and innovative marketing has resulted in the boom in the tourism sector.

The tourism industry in Kerala

Kerala has about 300 hotels, with a room inventory of about 10,000 classified rooms. It is estimated that there would be another 10,000 rooms in the unclassified hotels, guest houses, homestays and other informal accommodation. It is to be noted that more than 80% of the room inventory is owned and operated by businesses which are locally owned. Kerala tourism is a suceess story in marketing chiefly because of the projection of a consistent brand image, innovative promotion strategies, positive perception of the overall environmental quality and safety and security of visitors. It is also the success of the private businesses that have delivered a quality of experience and service that has made the destination very popular. Lastly, the Department of Tourism (Kerala Tourism) has built up a productive partnership platform with the private sector in the marketing and promotion front resulting in an aggressive and sustained brand reinforcement and promotion effort.

Kerala Tourism recognizes that sustainable tourism can go hand in hand with large volumes, and is not confined to a niche alone. The concerns of Kerala Tourism are : •Managing dynamic growth
Maximizing the contribution of tourism to local economic prosperity •Ensuring fair distribution of economic benefits locally, and harnessing tourism for poverty alleviation efforts •Human resource development to capture employment opportunity for local populations •Minimizing environmental impacts

Pursuing multi-stakeholder engagement

Impacts and Concerns

Alongside the rapid developments, there are also concerns about the negative impacts of tourism in the state. Prominent economic concerns are the minimal impact of the developments in the economic scenario of local populations, leakages, over dependency on tourism, restriction of employment for local population etc. Other aspects like environmental degradation due to unregulated development, loss of common property resources and pollution have also been highlighted.

The Responsible Tourism Intitiative in Kerala

Department of Tourism has decided to develop policies, strategies and plans for sustainable tourism. Accordingly, it was decided to adopt the guiding principles of responsible tourism, in economic,...
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