Kerala Voyages offers slow travel experiences with homestays and storytelling. Kerala has a wide variety of Village Life Experience tours developed by the government-funded Responsible Tourism Mission in villages across the state. The Mission is to make tourism a tool for development by bringing tourists to experience rural village life, bringing additional income-earning opportunities to communities. The Responsible Tourism Mission “aspires to provide an additional income and a better livelihood to farmers, traditional artisans, and marginalised people along with creating a social and environmental equilibrium.” The Village Life Experiences offer tourists an encounter with a series of hosts in a village an opportunity to sample Toddy (palm wine), walk through paddies with a rice farmer or try their hand at making coir rope. The hosts make an additional income by providing guest experiences based on an equal exchange between hosts and guests.
During the pandemic, Keralavoyages launched Nature to Homes, an online store that enables consumers to purchase spices, tea, soap, honey, cosmetics, pickles, dried buffalo meat, rice, preserves from rural producers, Ayurveda essentials and a growing range of eco-friendly products. A joint venture between Keralavoyages and Ergo Consulting Nature to Homes extends the idea of “farm gate sales” common in Europe to rural communities in Kerala able through an internet platform to sell to consumers in urban areas. The producers and consumers both benefit, brought together virtually on an internet platform where stories can be told just as in the Village Life Experiences rural hosts sell experiences to guests in the analogue world.
One of the producer groups promoted on the Nature to Homes platform is the Srishti Trust, an NGO dedicated to #EmpoweringTheSpeciallyabled. Founded in 1991, the Srishti Trust’s vision was to educate & provide a safe haven for the specially-abled children of the community of plantation workers of Munnar, Kerala. Their vocational skill development program is designed to develop the children’s dexterity & concentration organically evolved through a variety of skills ranging from cooking, baking, sewing, handmade paper & candle making as an integral part of the DARE School special education curriculum.
Nature to Homes is an example of how the tourism industry can enable rural communities to benefit from sales to consumers when they are not present as tourists. There is cope for many more initiatives of this kind.