In summary, these are about strengthening the benefits through tourism while minimizing the costs. There is also the realization that tourism can play a role in addressing poverty, by bringing sources of income closer to some of the poorest communities. Governments have to play a leading role in the process of sustainability – as the authority of regulation, the body responsible for public assets and resources affected by tourism, and as policy makers. Kerala has recorded remarkable levels of growth in tourism arrivals in recent years.
Kerala recorded 6. million domestic tourists and 4. 28 foreign tourists arrival in the year 2006, the average annual growth in domestic tourists is more than 18 % over the past decade. The annual growth rate for foreign tourist arrivals is over 20%, and over 5% for domestic tourists. Government has recognized the potential of tourism to provide employment, to raise resources and to become a prominent economic sector in the state’s economy. Improvement in infrastructure, better air connectivity and innovative marketing has resulted in the boom in the tourism sector. The tourism industry in Kerala
Kerala has about 300 hotels, with a room inventory of about 10,000 classified rooms. It is estimated that there would be another 10,000 rooms in the unclassified hotels, guest houses, homestays and other informal accommodation. It is to be noted that more than 80% of the room inventory is owned and operated by businesses which are locally owned. Kerala tourism is a suceess story in marketing chiefly because of the projection of a consistent brand image, innovative promotion strategies, positive perception of the overall environmental quality and safety and security of visitors.
It is also the success of the private businesses that have delivered a quality of experience and service that has made the destination very popular. Lastly, the Department of Tourism (Kerala Tourism) has built up a productive partnership platform with the private sector in the marketing and promotion front resulting in an aggressive and sustained brand reinforcement and promotion effort. Kerala Tourism recognizes that sustainable tourism can go hand in hand with large volumes, and is not confined to a niche alone.
The concerns of Kerala Tourism are : •Managing dynamic growth •Maximizing the contribution of tourism to local economic prosperity •Ensuring fair distribution of economic benefits locally, and harnessing tourism for poverty alleviation efforts •Human resource development to capture employment opportunity for local populations •Minimizing environmental impacts •Pursuing multi-stakeholder engagement Impacts and Concerns Alongside the rapid developments, there are also concerns about the negative impacts of tourism in the state.
Prominent economic concerns are the minimal impact of the developments in the economic scenario of local populations, leakages, over dependency on tourism, restriction of employment for local population etc. Other aspects like environmental degradation due to unregulated development, loss of common property resources and pollution have also been highlighted. The Responsible Tourism Intitiative in Kerala Department of Tourism has decided to develop policies, strategies and plans for sustainable tourism.
Accordingly, it was decided to adopt the guiding principles of responsible tourism, in economic, social and environmental spheres. A multi stakeholder, participatory approach was advocated to take the initiative forward. It was recognized that the first step to adopting the principles of Responsible Tourism will have to be an extensive consultative exercise, which would determine the contours of the overall strategy. The State RT Initiative was kicked off at the state level consultation.
This paper proposes to detail the steps taken as part of the RT initiative, leading up to the formal inauguration of the programme. The issues and concerns of major stakeholder groups that emerged during the discussions are listed in detail, as these describe the perceptions and opinions about the tourism sector before the multi stakeholder engagement was initiated. State Consultation The objective of the consultative workshop was to engage all stakeholders in the formulation of a strategy and policies; and to ensure effective coordination of actions and an ongoing dialogue between stakeholders.
The effort was to bring together diverse opinions and persons with knowledge and expertise, and to ensure the commitment of support and resources to a common, shared agenda. It was with this in view, the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala decided to organise a state-level consultation on Responsibility in Tourism in association with the International Centre for Responsible Tourism.
The two day workshop was attended by wide range of stakeholders including representatives from state government departments, local self governments (panchayats, municipalities and corporations), different segments of the tourism industry, civil society organisations, NGOs, academicians and media. The discussions were moderated by Prof. Harold Goodwin, from the International Centre for Responsible Tourism. The department’s partnering with an NGO with a track record of emphatic criticism of government policy and performance, to spearhead the initiative was met with surprise from many quarters.
Both partners entered into this partnership expecting a great deal of flak for associating with the ‘other side’. However this was a well though out move – the credibility of the government in pushing for responsibility among a skeptical civil society that was waging a war against the ‘damage’ that tourism was inflicting on the environmental and socio economic fabric of the state was crucial for effective stakeholder engagement and collaborative action.
From the point of view of the NGO this was perhaps the best opportunity to engage the government for developing sustainable frameworks and models that would address the negative impacts of tourism. For the industry this association would do good only if it helped generate greater good will and understanding locally about the opportunities that tourism provided for the local economy, and bring heightened value to the tourist experience which would, in turn fuel an increase in quality business.
The programme had to bring the various stakeholders in the industry, the local government and the civil society together for a meaningful debate and agreement on areas of collaboration for responsibility. Keeping this in mind, the programme was divided into two – the introduction of the theme of Responsible tourism in the Kerala context and detailed thematic discussions. During the introductory presentation and discussions, there were presentations on the different perceptions of the impact of tourism industry, case studies and the development of a discussion framework.
The second day was devoted to thematic discussions where the issues regarding economic, social and environmental sustainability were articulated and documented. For sub group discussions, the participants were categorized into three groups: 1. Local self governments & Civil society organisations 2. Tourism Industry 3. State Government departments and organisations The undiluted perceptions in respect of issues faced by the industry, as well as those created on account of tourism activity were to be elicited from each stakeholder group.
Each group was therefore asked to freely discuss on the issues related to economic, social and environment responsibility from their point of view. The views of each group are given below in some detail, as these bring out vividly the different perceptions of tourism. I. Local Self Governments & Civil Society Organisations The issues identified by the group are summarised below: Economic •Opportunity costs are not taken into account while implementing tourism projects •Special Tourism Zones will bring in lot of inequalities and does not match with the concept of responsible tourism.
The method of calculation of tourism statistics is not correct leading to wrong projects on infrastructure development •Importance is given only for foreign tourists •Expenditure pattern of tourists not monitored properly •The exact requirements of the tourism industry are not known locally •No involvement of panchayats in tourism projects •No tourism projects are reported in gramasabhas •Large amount of subsidies and incentives given to tourism industry •No bench mark data available for economic, social and environment aspects •Over dependence on tourism in some tourism destinations Local governments have been lax in assessment and collection of building tax and entertainment tax Social and Cultural.
The local labourers are not given proper recognition and opportunities for employment •Labour standards are not maintained •Traditional jobs are lost •Low education standards in rural villages denies jobs •No consideration for people working in the informal sectors •Promoting art forms is not culture tourism •Commodification of art forms •Change in food habits of local community; promotes menu suiting foreigners •The dangers of sex tourism •Contradictions on State and panchayat Raj act not recognised.