In a boost for rural tourism, Kerala's Kanthalloor Village has received the prestigious 'Gold' award from the Government of India for its exceptional efforts in implementing the STREET tourism project. This initiative is part of the State Responsible Tourism Mission's endeavours to promote sustainable and inclusive tourism.
The award was presented to Kerala Tourism Director PB Nooh by the Union Ministry of Tourism during a ceremony held at Bharat Mandapam on World Tourism Day, September 27. STREET, which stands for "Sustainable, Tangible, Responsible, Experiential, Ethnic, Tourism," is being implemented in select locations across Kerala, aligning with the UNWTO's theme of 'Tourism for Inclusive Growth.'
Kanthalloor Village's outstanding contribution was recognised following an extensive eight-month evaluation of rural village projects from all corners of the country. In a fierce competition involving 767 projects, Kanthalloor Village in Idduki emerged as one of the five recipients of the 'Gold' award, with ten additional projects receiving 'Silver' and twenty projects securing 'Bronze' recognition.
Kerala Tourism Minister PA Mohamed Riyas expressed immense pride in this achievement, underscoring Kerala's unwavering commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism practices. Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary K Biju lauded Kerala's global leadership in sustainable and inclusive tourism, citing Kanthalloor as an example of these principles.
Nooh added that this recognition further contributed to Kerala's Responsible Tourism initiative's growing list of international and national awards garnered. This initiative has gained global acclaim for its tourism development model, prioritising the preservation of ecology, culture, and the welfare of local communities.
Kanthalloor Village, situated close to the renowned Munnar hill station within the Idukki district, initially joined the participatory tourism initiative 'PEPPER' before transitioning to the STREET project. This transformation was made possible through active community involvement and the dedicated efforts of the village panchayat.
The journey in Kanthalloor encompassed village assemblies, resource mapping, training programs, and the establishment of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) associated with various tourism-related businesses. The Responsible Tourism Mission and the Village Panchayat collaborated effectively, culminating in the declaration of the entire panchayat as an integral part of a 'tourism circuit.'
Kanthalloor became the country's first panchayat to introduce women-friendly tourism practices through collaborative programs with UN Women. This included the implementation of the 'destination security' scheme and the developing of special women-oriented tour packages.
The project received funding from the plan fund, with uniform pricing for tour packages and rigorous oversight facilitated by joint review meetings conducted by the Responsible Tourism Mission and UN Women. The 'safe destination' scheme was implemented as part of these efforts, and 'Green Badges' were awarded to vehicles used for tourism activities.
In a holistic approach to enhancing the tourist experience, various initiatives were undertaken, including maintaining street lights, installing public water vending machines, and placing destination signboards. The systematic collection of waste from households and tourism properties was established, accompanied by the creation of green check posts to enforce strict bans on plastic materials. To further enrich the rural tourism experience, distinct areas were designated green, vegetable, and fruit streets. The coordinated execution of these diverse activities was overseen by an appointed panel, with the panchayat president serving as chairman and the RT Mission coordinator as convener.