Kerala Tourism has been awarded by the United Nations for creating innovative initiatives for sustainable tourism. This is the first time such an award has been given for a tourism initiative in India.
Kerala Tourism walked away with the top honours at the annual United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism presented Jan 22 in Madrid, Spain’s capital, where the UNWTO headquarters is located.
This comes as the biggest international recognition Kerala Tourism has received to date.
The UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance which Kerala bagged is the highest honour given to government bodies for shaping global tourism policies through innovative initiatives.
Kerala Tourism was awarded for “Responsible Tourism” in Kumarakom which has successfully linked the local community with the hospitality industry and government departments, creating a model for empowerment and development of the people in the area while sustaining eco-friendly tourism.
“Kerala, a popular eco-tourism destination, portrays responsible and sustainable tourism in an exceptional manner. This recognition conferred upon the state is a great step towards creating a better understanding among other destinations of the principles we stand for,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai at the awards ceremony.
Instituted in 2003 by UNWTO, the United Nations agency for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, the awards are given to projects that are in line with the UNWTO’s code of Ethics for Tourism and standards set in the UN Millennium Development Goals.
“We are humbled by the UNWTO’s decision to confer this highest international award on our state,” Kerala Tourism Minister A.P. Anil Kumar said.
“By building healthy private-public partnerships at the local level with the active involvement of the local community, we can create jobs locally, improve the lives of members of the local community and preserve culture and ethos through sustainable tourism,” the minister said.
Launched in 2008, Kerala Tourism’s “Responsible Tourism” initiative in Kumarakom involves the gram panchayat, the government-supported Kudumbashree, District Tourism Promotion Council and local hospitality industry, besides the government departments of agriculture and health.
“We are delighted that Kumarakom has become a model for sustainable tourism,” Kerala Tourism secretary Suman Billa, who received the Ulysses Prize at a glittering awards ceremony, said.
Kumarakom in Kottayam district of Kerala, set in the backdrop of the state’s largest freshwater lake Vembanad, had earlier been awarded the national award for sustainable rural tourism.