The backwater destination of Kumarakom is to be declared Responsible Tourism (RT) global destination on June 29 following the overwhelming success of the RT model that links local community to the hospitality industry.

The declaration is to be made after the two-day International Conference on RT being held at Kumarakom from June 27 by Kerala Tourism in association with RT School @ KITTS (Kerala Institute of Tourism and Travel Studies).

Official sources told The Hindu that the status of RT global destination will be a fillip to the RT initiatives being carried out in the State and will attract more tourists to the destination in Kottayam district that is already popular.

Pilot projects

The RT initiatives were kicked off by Kerala Tourism as pilot projects in Kovalam, Kumarakom, Thekkady and Wayanad seven years ago. Kumarakom forged ahead in establishing economic linkages through procurement of local products and providing employment opportunities to local people.

All the major hotels and resorts in the area sourced their raw materials from the over 400 local production units in the panchayat. The 22 Kudumbasree vegetable units, 14 units of local farmers, and 360 homestead units ensured quality and prompt supply. The sources said 800 to 1,000 local residents had benefited from the panchayat-industry link-up.

VLE package

The Village Life Experience (VLE) package too was a major success in Kumarakom. UNWTO representatives were in the destination last month to see the RT initiatives after news of the Kumarakom model reached the UN Secretary General.

The RT model had won the 2011-12 National Award for Best Rural Tourism Project. The RT initiatives were presented by Kumarakom grama panchayat president Dhanya M.R. at the World Travel Market in London two years ago.

As a prelude to the declaration, the authorities are working to set the standards for skill development and to impart training to life guards, autorickshaw and taxi drivers. Training has also commenced for the local people in candle making, pappad, tender coconut products and in organic farming.

Pro-poor tourism

The theme of the international conference will be ‘Responsible Tourism: Looking Back, Moving Ahead.’ The conference will look into the progress the State has made after the second edition of International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations (ICRTD) held in Kochi in March 2008.

The conference will also discuss the latest advances in the field of RT across the world, the sources said. It will have parallel sessions on Economic Responsibility, Socio-cultural Responsibility and Environmental Responsibility.

The meet is an opportunity to look at the challenges which need to be addressed in the next five years. Kerala shares with Gambia the distinction of being the best laboratory for pro-poor tourism, the sources said. Field visits to see the RT initiatives had also been organised on the day of declaration.