‘Sustainable tourism is the need of the hour’: Anish Kumar P K shares ideas to rebuild Kerala
While Kerala is bouncing back from the havoc caused by the recent heavy rain and devastating flood, discussions are on regarding the rebuilding of Kerala with a new vision, than just mend the damages. Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala, has put forth the concept of a ‘Nava Kerala’ (New Kerala), while re-constructing the state and invited opinions and suggestions from people from all walks of life.
P K Anish Kumar, President of ATTOI (Association of Tourism Trade Organizations of India) is sharing some of his ideas to rebuild Kerala. Being in the tourism industry, Anish’s vision of building the ‘Nava Kerala’ is giving emphasis to development of the tourism sector, which is one of the major revenue earners of the state.
Kerala is one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in Asia. However, infrastructure development is not at par with international standards, when compared to similar renowned tourism destinations. We should not compromise on the quality of infrastructure in destinations – especially those properties which are in the list of rebuilding. Most of our tourism destinations don’t have walkways. In fact people love to explore destinations on foot. Providing walkways will beautify the tourism hotspots and it will also enable people to enjoy the surroundings while walking.
Kerala has a host of eco-tourism sites and some are still untouched and yet to be explored. While formulating strategies for development in environmentally fragile areas, preservation of nature and environment should be given utmost priority. It is very important for sustainable tourism and to safeguard the eco-system. When allowing construction and development activities in environmentally fragile regions, it is better to follow the under mentioned practices:
a) During the recent rain and floods, we have experienced landslides in cardamom plantations where a number of large roads were constructed. Eco sensitive areas should not be allowed to have any kind of earth moving or land cutting activities. Meanwhile, landslides were not that massive in tea plantation area, which shows that tea plantations could prevent soil erosion and landslides.
b) Regulate construction activities in eco-sensitive areas and lands with more than 30 degree slope.
c) While investing in tourism, investors should make sure that land chosen for tourism activities are not in environmentally fragile areas; to safe guard the eco-system and their investment.
Model villages can be set up in flood affected areas, where we can promote organic farming, cultivation of medicinal plants, fish culture etc. This will generate a number job opportunities to localites. Tourists who wish to experience the raw village life and keen in learning organic farming or fish culture can have some quality moments with the villagers.
Carrying capacity of tourism spots
While developing tourism destinations, the carrying capacity of the area should also be considered, especially in hilly areas. From our experience, most of our hill stations are over populated or over crowded with reckless construction activities. These are the main reasons of natural calamities like landslides and floods. It would be advisable to carrying out scientific studies on the carrying capacity of our tourism destinations, especially in the hilly areas.
Short term marketing campaigns to be conducted with immediate effect to regain the image of our state and to generate confidence among the tourists to visit Kerala. Meanwhile, long term marketing plans to be formulated to reinstate inbound tourists, whom we have lost due to the floods. Influencer marketing is gaining popularity in tourism marketing and Kerala may opt for such influencers, through whom we can promote our tourism destinations.
Waste management is one of the major huddles the state has been experiencing for years. The state should find some scientific solutions to reduce plastic and non-biodegradable waste. All our tourist destinations should be equipped with effective waste management system.
Responsible use of social media
Social media is having huge impact on our lives these days. Whatever shared on social media will spread like wild fire in no time. So we should take care of what we are posting on social media platforms and ensure that our post will not have a negative impact on our state. During Nipah virus outbreak, the news shared on social media could affect the tourism sector very badly. During the floods too social media messages have given an impression that Kerala was not safe for travel and affected the number of tourist arrivals. We should share positive news about our state and the tourism sector, so that tourists will be encouraged to visit our state.