Kerala will be hosting the first Global Summit on Responsible Tourism on 25-27 February 2023. Responsible Tourism arrived in Kerala in 2008 when Dr Venu, the then Director of Tourism, invited us to hold the 2nd International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destination building on South Africa’s inclusion of Responsible Tourism in its post-apartheid national tourism strategy. Back in 2008 Kerala sought to learn from people who had been implementing Responsible Tourism approaches around the world; some 500 Indian and foreign delegates and 61 speakers from over 29 countries attended the Conference.
We recognised that we had not made as much progress as we would have hoped in the six years which had elapsed since the 1st International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations held in Cape Town in 2002. There was then, as there is now, a real danger that Responsible Tourism will be undermined by businesses, communities and governments which use the language of responsibility but do little and, too often, nothing.
The only way to challenge those who pay only lip service to the cause of using tourism to make better places for people to live and secondly to visit is to report their contribution and achievement in a transparent, honest and robust way. The WTM Responsible Tourism Awards, which have been running annually since 2004 recognise those that have taken responsibility and made a difference.
India’s Responsible Tourism efforts have been recognised in the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards over many years. For the list of those recognised see here 106, States, Union Territories, businesses and NGOs have been recognised across India: Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Assam, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman & Dium, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal.
Mohamed Riyas, Kerala Tourism Minister, set the vision for the state: “We now want to transform the whole of Kerala into an interconnected tourist haven where visitors get plenty of choices and diverse experiences. All this will make a trip to Kerala a wholesome experience for visitors looking for diverse experiences, be it a stay in a houseboat or caravan, ecologically responsible adventure activities, visits to heritage and cultural centres.”
Travel to Kerala and fall head over heels in love. From dreamy destinations to heartwarming experiences, there’s nothing quite like a trip to God’s Own Country. #LoveIsInTheAir #ValentinesDay #Kerala #KeralaTourism pic.twitter.com/mCmeQ3G9Mx— Kerala Tourism (@KeralaTourism) February 13, 2023
In January 2023 the Kerala State Government approved a draft Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulations for the formation of the Responsible Tourism (RT) Mission as a Society. The Minister of Tourism will be the Chair and the Tourism Secretary will be the Vice Chair. Rupesh Kumar, the existing RT mission coordinator, will be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the society. The Society will continue to be funded by the government, and it will be easier to secure funding from other sources, funding provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was discontinued recently, as the Mission was not registered as a Society.
The Responsible Tourism Society will also be able to increase its revenue through, for example, registration fees, consultancy charges, commissions through product marketing, training fee, etc. By becoming a Society, it can also work in more areas independently. Currently, 24,000 local units are functioning under the RT mission across Kerala and around 1,50,000 families are already benefitting from the Missions work.
India is now the world’s leading Responsible Tourism destination – it is fitting that it should hold the first Global Summit in Kumarakom, where it all started, followed by a Symposium to launch Technology for Responsible Tourism near Calicut.