30 July 2013
Sangeetha Nair, Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala tourism has decided not to label Kumarakom as an RT (responsible tourism) global destination. Sources in the tourism department said by classifying Kumarakom as a 100% RT destination, the department of tourism was putting itself up for global criticism.
Kerala tourism's decision to laud its responsible tourism work at Kumarakom was already being ridiculed by advocacy organizations like Equations, which study the social, cultural, economic and environmental impact of tourism on local communities. Equations felt that the "RT global destination" tag was being celebrated too soon. The declaration, which was to be made at the end of the two-day international conference on responsible tourism on June 29, was deferred indefinitely. It is now learnt that the tourism department will not be calling Kumarakom an RT global destination.
"The RT classification tag was just part of an internal discussion to emphasize the role of responsible tourism at Kumarakom. Somehow it snowballed and gathered media attention. We decided to let it go, because when an RT tag is asserted, it will be up for criticism and scrutiny. Moreover, there is no global benchmark for responsible tourism," said a top official from the tourism department.
But, this does not take away the success that responsible tourism has had at Kumarakom. More than 90% hotels qualify as they are engaged in responsible tourism initiatives. Big properties like Coconut Lagoon and Kumarakom Lake Resort have scores between 750-1,000, enough to be mentioned in the platinum list.
While playing up the RT classification would bring discerning tourists to Kumarakom, the biggest problem with labelling a destination is that the tourism department has no control over purchase patterns.
"It is functioning smoothly now, with many hotels showing interest in procuring indigenous products. But, tomorrow if a purchase manager decides against this, then it would definitely dent our RT advantage," said the official.