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On World Tourism Day, call to make Kerala’s tourist destinations inclusive

Inadequate infrastructure to host differently abled and threats to pedestrian safety among challenges faced by sector

September 27, 2022 09:14 pm | Updated 09:17 pm IST - KOCHI

Foreign tourists at Mattancherry with Mehndi designs done on their palm as part of a ‘Mehndi for Tourists’ event organised by the State Tourism department, District Tourism Promotion Council, and Cochin Heritage Conservation Society on Tuesday. 

Foreign tourists at Mattancherry with Mehndi designs done on their palm as part of a ‘Mehndi for Tourists’ event organised by the State Tourism department, District Tourism Promotion Council, and Cochin Heritage Conservation Society on Tuesday.  | Photo Credit: R.K. Nithin 

Tourism agencies and stakeholders hosted a slew of innovative events in the district to observe World Tourism Day on Tuesday even as challenges remain in the form of wholly inadequate infrastructure to host differently abled people, the threat posed to the sector by the proliferation of stray dogs that often turn violent, unscientific garbage disposal, and sea erosion that is driving people away from beaches.

Artistes from West Kochi welcomed tourists to Mattancherry by applying home-made Mehndi, which is very popular in the area, on the hands of around 300 guests, in front of the Dutch Palace. The celebrations were led by M.S. Shifana who made it to the Indian Book of Records by making the biggest Mehndi.

Shifana, a mehndi artist, applies mehndi on the hand of Ernakulam District Collector Renu Raj to open a ‘mehndi for tourists’ event organised by the State Tourism department, District Tourism Promotion Council, and Cochin Heritage Conservation Society at Mattancherry on Tuesday.

Shifana, a mehndi artist, applies mehndi on the hand of Ernakulam District Collector Renu Raj to open a ‘mehndi for tourists’ event organised by the State Tourism department, District Tourism Promotion Council, and Cochin Heritage Conservation Society at Mattancherry on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: R.K. NITHIN

District Collector Renu Raj was among the attendees at the event organised by Cochin Heritage Zone Conservation Society, Ernakulam District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), and the Kerala Tourism.

Calling attention to the shoddy plight of pedestrians and allied infrastructure in most tourist locales, B. Venugopal, former Director of National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi, who organised heritage walks in Kochi, said it was high time tourist locales, monuments, and museums became inclusive and accessible for aged people and the differently abled. “This is especially so since the city is gearing up to host the Kochi Muziris Biennale. Globally, efforts are being made to help differently abled people appreciate art works, including by feeling them by touching,” he added.

The agencies concerned must clear impediments to pedestrians and develop wheelchair access in tourist locales. A sustainable campaign is needed in this regard, especially so since the State government has set in motion a project to make tourism locales accessible for all as early as 2007. Even footpaths that were recently renovated in Fort Kochi by Cochin Smart Mission Limited (CSML) do not cater for those who need extra care. One must also learn from the proactive measures taken by civic agencies in cities like Ahmedabad, he said.

Heritage enthusiast and former Mayor K.J. Sohan spoke of how tourism could sustain itself in the post-pandemic era only by banking on sustainable and experiential tourism. “Sadly, tourism agencies are doing little in West Kochi which abounds with bungalows and monuments which are a minefield of stories of the bygone era, although the locale is a melting pot of over two dozen communities,” he said.

On the rampant violation of heritage norms in tourism locales, heritage story teller Johann Binny Kuruvilla called upon the agencies concerned to conserve old buildings and enforce norms. “Well-maintained toilets are another missing link in most locales,” he said.

The agencies and the Tourism Club organised a cleaning up of the famed beaches in Fort Kochi and Cherai, while India Tourism, Tourist Guides Federation of South India, South India Regional Guides Association of Kerala, Muziris Heritage Project (MHP), and Kottapuram Integrated Development Society hosted a seminar on ’Rethinking Tourism’, the motto of this year’s Tourism Day observance.

On their part, Kochi Metro Rail Limited and Chavara Cultural Centre organised staging of Kathakali, Theyyam, Thullal, Mohiniyattom, Dufmutt, Tiruvathirakkali, and Oppana in metro trains.

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