Kerala will implement Responsible Tourism (RT) as a popular program on the lines of the State’s much-successful literacy movement and decentralised planning, the Global Responsible Tourism Summit announced.
A declaration to this effect was drafted on the basis of ideas and proposals that emerged from two days of discussions at the February 25-28 conclave. It serves as an update to the ‘Kerala RT Declaration of 2008’, Tourism Minister PA Mohamed Riyas said.
“The focus is on making Kerala a better place with better people. RT brought in a new phase of human interaction, enabling us to go deeper into the roots of society”, the Minister said.
The 2023 Declaration, which was signed by Kerala Tourism Principal Secretary KS Srinivas and Responsible Tourism Partnership & ICRT International Founder Harold Goodwin, speaks on three kinds of responsibilities: social, economic and environmental.
A vital guiding principle will be regular assessment of economic impacts before developing tourism. Preference will be for initiatives that benefit local communities and minimize negative impacts on livelihoods. The declaration calls for maximum economic benefits to the residents around any project by increasing linkages and reducing leakages by involving communities. Tourism will assist poverty alleviation.
As for social responsibilities, local communities should be involved in planning, decision-making and capacity-building. To strengthen gender equality and ensure safe destinations for women as both hosts and guests, the State RT Mission will work with civic bodies and UN Women in all the programmes.
Under environmental responsibilities amid alarming climate change, the RT Mission will accord high priority on reducing green-house gas emissions. “Communities need investment to adapt to the consequences of climate change generated beyond Kerala,” it says, urging for sustainable use of resources amid minimal waste (particularly plastic) and optimal consumption. “Reduce, reuse and recycle” will be the mantra, with priority given to the restoration of buildings instead of building new ones.
The 2023 Declaration calls for the development of quality products that reflect the spirit of any tourist destination, and complement and enhance its value. Tourism must be marketed in ways that reflect the natural, cultural and social integrity of the destination.
Also, authorities should adopt equitable business practices, pay and charge fair prices, and build partnerships which may share and minimize risk, besides recruiting and employing staff recognizing international labor standards. Further, the sector must provide appropriate and sufficient support to small, medium and micro enterprises to ensure tourism-related enterprises thrive and remain sustainable.
The document calls for ensuring tourism’s contribution to improvements in health and education, as well as promoting innovation in tourism.
Overall, work will be carried out with cooperation from other government ministries to develop Kerala as a carbon-neutral destination.