Declare Kerala an RT destination: expert

Kerala should ramp up its commitment to Responsible Tourism (RT) and declare the State as an RT destination in the light of changing consumer preferences towards zero-carbon destinations and zero food miles besides factoring in environmental costs beyond economic costs, Director, Technical Cooperation and Silk Road, UNWTO, Suman Billa has said.

Addressing a session on Tourism on the second day of the ‘Kerala Looks Ahead’ global conference and consultation on Tuesday, Mr. Billa, a Kerala cadre IAS officer, said India had a robust domestic market, and Kerala, famous for its niche products like wellness, houseboats, and home stays, would emerge strongly. “Kerala also needs to add Instagrammable activities to attract the younger clientele and increase footfalls.”

Citing statistics, he said that the UNWTO had described 2020 as the worst year ever for tourism with international tourist arrivals plummeting by 74%. Mr. Billa, however, exuded hope that the pre-pandemic levels of international travel might be achieved by 2023-24.

The UNWTO Director said Spice Route project was the ideal vehicle to take Kerala Tourism to the next level to build a compelling story and expand the footprint in its key international markets and source markets.

Several steps

Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran, in his opening remarks, said the State had taken several steps to preserve and revive tourism so that it would remain on a firm footing to meet the demand during the post-COVID times. “For that, we must first promote domestic tourism. Health tourism can also provide enough opportunities. We have now tailored our tourism policy to suit the COVID times.”

New areas like adventure tourism, promotion of the Malabar region in a big way, boosting the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and supporting the Muziris Heritage projects is also being worked out, he said.

In his introductory remarks, Venu V., Member-Secretary, Planning Board, said the State needed to look into the changing trends in national and international tourism as the present crisis from COVID was the worst.

World leader

Harold Goodwin, Founder Director, International Centre for Responsible Tourism, U.K., spoke about the need for promoting Responsible Tourism. “Kerala is currently the world leader in Responsible Tourism. It has some of the world’s leading businesses, but it is really at the destination that it stands out as being so different.”

Christina Beckmann, Vice President, Global Strategy for Adventure Travel Trade Association & Co-Founder of Tomorrow’s Air, Nimit Ranjan Chowdhary, Professor, Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Jamia Millia Islamia, and Dipak Deva, Managing Director, Travel Corporation India Limited, spoke.

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