Kumarakom Responsible Tourism Initiative
The project was launched in 2007 to promote sustainable development in tourism destinations in the state, together with community and industry participation. Previously, tourism developments and businesses quite often led to conflicts on resource use, employment and other benefit sharing with the local community. Contrarily, the project envisages that each stakeholder in the destination has responsibility in making tourism sustainable and gives priority to economic, socio-cultural and environmental sustainability of the destination through responsible activities of the stakeholders and the community. Kumarakom was chosen as one of the pilot destinations for implementing the project, being one of the globally renowned backwater destinations of the state. A mechanism was created to purchase local products and services by hotels in order to establish a relationship with the community. To ensure quality, mutual benefits, trust and transparency, arrangements were made by forming committees of price and quality assurance. Farms and production units visits were also arranged for hotel groups to ensure the authenticity of the activities. The project is completely funded by Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala and NGOs support the watchdog role. Kumarakom Responsible Tourism Initiative contributes to all five key areas expressed by International Year of Tourism for Development 2017: local procurement by hotels ensured better linkages and reduced leakages, around 2500 community members financially benefited from the project, more than 400 farmers started vegetable cultivation; creation of Labour Directories based on the skill of local community members, formation of Ethnic Food Restaurant that caters traditional food by the members of Kudumbashree; regeneration of Mangrove ecosystem, which was once destroyed by the tourism industry; promotion of organic farming, Tourism Resource Mapping of the destination to identify the cultural and heritage resources for tourism product development, formation of cultural groups to perform local art forms and linking to hotels and resorts, development of local souvenirs by giving training to local community members; creation of institutional mechanisms where the stakeholders of tourism sit together and discuss issues in tourism and brings out solutions, promotion of mutual respect between tourism stakeholders and community. The project achieved impressive results, one of them being that now, more than 82% of households are involved in tourism related activities.