UNWTO Hails Kerala’s Responsible Tourism Initiatives

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Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala’s award-winning ‘Responsible Tourism’ (RT) initiatives have come in for further recognition with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) describing them as a model for other destinations to replicate.

The world’s foremost international tourism organisation also called for the development of closer ties between Kerala Tourism and UNWTO, emphasising the importance of further association to help take the message of sustainable tourism forward.

In a recent meeting held at UNWTO headquarters in Madrid, U V Jose IAS, Director, Kerala Tourism has presented a report on the RT campaigns – the heart of Kerala’s tourism story for nearly a decade – to Xu Jing, UNWTO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

The report contained details of the RT policies and practices implemented in the State and the campaign’s success in giving stakeholdership to local communities and empowering them economically through activities that prioritise cultural and ecological conservation.

In addition, the report outlined plans of action undertaken as part of this commitment to sustainability such as the implementation of a new RT Classification system in keeping with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, the Government of Kerala’s ‘Green Carpet’ programme, the creation of destination-level RT units to support local communities and transformative initiatives adopted by trade sector entities like the Kerala Travel Mart’s (KTM) ‘9-point agenda’.

Observing that the UNWTO’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 (IYSTD2017) was a good opportunity to focus on local development, Jose said the aim is now to certify small destinations across the State according to the same criteria.

Congratulating Kerala for the initiative’s success, Jing said, “The UNWTO is proud of the work done by Kerala Tourism and impressed by the Kerala model of responsible and sustainable tourism. The projects can be included as part of UNWTO’s global programmes and the report can be a case study for other destinations. We are eager to strengthen our relationship and discuss matters of common interest.”

Noting that the Regional Programme for Asia and the Pacific would take the report to a wider audience through the RPAP and IYSTD2017 websites, Jing also suggested areas for further collaboration: associating with Kerala Tourism on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and conducting joint efforts towards measuring sustainable tourism along with the UNWTO’s Technical Cooperation Programme.

The UNWTO also invited Kerala Tourism to deliver a presentation at the Joint Commission Meeting to be held in Bangladesh in May. The department was also requested to participate in the UNWTO’s International Conference on Tourism Statistics: Measuring Sustainable Tourism to be held in Manila from June 21-24.

As well, Jing enquired about the possibility of Kerala Tourism collaborating with UNWTO to create an RT advocacy agenda based on of the ‘Responsible Tourism Symposium’ in South Korea and initiating an RT award at the next edition of the KTM along the lines of the Japanese Travel Association’s (JATA) Japan Tourism Award for Responsible Tourism.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of FITUR 2017, one of the world’s largest tourism and travel fairs. Jose had also attended the launch event of the UNWTO’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

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