Kerala: Rural tourism at a Global Conference

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Kochi, Sep 23: India will showcase its initiatives in Rural Tourism at a 'Global Conference on Responsible Tourism for Inclusive Growth', to be held in New Delhi in December this year, Joint Secretary, Union Tourism Ministry, Leena Nandan said on Tuesday, Sep 23. Addressing a 'Rural Tourism Conference' at the 5th Kerala Travel Mart here, Ms Nandan said four regional thematic conferences were being held across India, including the one in Kochi today, in the run-up to the global meet.

The other regional conferences would be held at Bhopal later this month and in Shillong and Chennai in October.

So far, 31 villages across India had been identified for the project, initiated in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the work was at various stages of execution in these areas.

Ms Nandan said that the country had taken the 'responsible tourism' route for the project. The focus of the government was to support the capacity building of the rural communities as well as the infrastructure in these areas.

''This project positions India's rural way of life as a unique visitor experience in low-impact settings.'' The Rural Tourism Project not only sought to open up new areas of the country for the discerning tourists but also strengthen the disadvantaged but skilled rural artisan communities, particularly women, she added.

As of now, the 'Kudumbasree' self-help groups are supplying a total of 35 products to the hotels. At the Kerala Travel Mart, the 12 stalls of the 'Kudumbasree', showcasing exquisite handicrafts and herbal products, have become a big draw with foreign and domestic visitors. ''In fact, so taken up was a tour operator with our work that he suggested that the Kudumabasree Project itself could be the theme of a tour,'' Ms Parvathi said.

Stating that there was immense potential to involve rural women in tourism projects, Ms Parvathi said nearly 3.6 million poor women, grouped in two lakh neighbourhood groups, were part of the 'Kudumbasree' Mission.

Some of these grpups made beautiful handicrafts which could be sourced as souvenirs by the tourist industry, she said.

Admitting that there was some resistance shown initially by the hotels and local suppliers when the 'Responsible Tourism Initiative'was launched in Kumarakom, Ms Parvathi said the women had now been able to generate confidence that they could be trusted to keep the supply-chain going.

Also, they had been able to standardise the price and quality, which was now being appreciated by the resorts.

''We have just started. The potential is tremendous. Rural women could be great partners of the State's tourism industry, especially as responsible tourism and partnership with local communities is being stressed by the government,'' she added.

UNI

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