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RT Awards Kerala

June 12, 2020
Olivia Holcombe
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Responsible Tourism Award Winners for Kerala, India

 

Dewalokam 

www.dewalokam.in

IRTA 2017 Silver Winner, Best Responsible Tourism Property

An organic farm with ayurvedic herbals and a variety of native fruit plants. Dewalokam offers an experience of rural village life as the guests of the Dewalokam staff (7 women and 11 men) from 16 different families in the village, all of whom benefit from the enterprise.

 

The Blue Yonder

www.theblueyonder.com

IRTA 2017 Gold Winner, Best for Cultural Immersion

The company was launched to promote the River Nila in Kerala as a destination. Blue Yonder has used the rich cultural heritage of the valley to bring visitors to celebrate the river, enhance local pride in the river and the people who live along it, and to create sustainable livelihoods. Each initiative is designed to be sustainable with local demand, tourism increases earning capacity and brings recognition. The musical trail started in 2004 with 4 beneficiaries, it now supports 850+ students and more than 15 teachers, while offering varied experiences to travellers. All the travel experiences offered are developed through community consultation and co-creation. “The sense of ownership and responsibility on each travel experiences make all the difference in terms of delivery and interaction with the travel community.”

 

Kabani Community Tourism

www.kabanitour.com

IRTA 2017 Silver Winner, Best for Community-based Homestay

Kabani (the other direction) is a non-profit  community association which since 2005 has been opposing destructive mass tourism and promoting a model which benefits local communities and avoids most of the negative impacts. In 2014 they created a social enterprise to promote community tourism initiatives to create additional incomes for famers in order to help reduce farmer suicides. The judges were impressed by the way in which Kabani has worked with farmers, fisher folk and women entrepreneurs to create B&Bs in 8 villages involving 450 villagers.

 

Fringe Ford Wayanad, Kerala

www.fringeford.com

WRTA 2019 Gold

Fringe Ford is a former cardamom and coffee plantation stretching over 1000 acres, 520 acres of which have now been rewilded. The fences with the Wyanad and Tholpaty reserve forests have been removed creating a borderless reserve of Malabar rainforest and creating a wildlife corridor between reserves. There are just five rooms, a very low impact wilderness guesthouse. The only activities offered in the wilderness reserve are guided walks. The Travancore flying squirrel, Nilgiri marten, Lion-tailed macaque, Brown palm civet and the Nilgiri langur can all be seen in the reserve along with elephants, gaur, tiger and leopard. The regular presence of wildlife enthusiasts and fieldwork students in the forest has significantly reduced poaching, cannabis cultivation and illicit liquor manufacture. The guesthouse has grid hydroelectricity; greywater is cleaned through a reed bed, brown water goes into septic soak pits. All the staff are from local villages, fresh fruit and vegetables come from the villages, spices and honey come from the local tribal co-operative in the village. Fringe Ford won Gold in the India Responsible Tourism Awards in 2018 – the World Awards judges wanted to recognise the significance of this rewilding initiative in India, a conservation strategy more common in Africa. This is an example of tourism being used to achieve conservation objectives.

IRTA 2018 Overall Winner, and Gold Winner, Wildlife Property

Overall Winner: The judges recognise the importance of the Fringe Ford model, rewilding former plantation land to create a wilderness reserve which creates a larger contiguous reserve by linking Wyanad and Tholpaty reserve forests. Too often the most biologically productive land is take for cultivation and denied to native flora and fauna. Fringe Ford has been championing a White Paper on “Private land participation in preservation and conservation of forests” at the national level. This approach to re-wilding former plantation or agricultural land is increasingly common in southern Africa bringing benefits for wildlife conservation and rural communities. The judges recognise the national importance of the re-wilding initiative at Fringe Ford as a harbinger of change, critical to the future of wildlife in India.

Gold Winner, Wildlife Property: A former cardamom and coffee plantation stretching over 1000 acres, 520 acres of which have now been rewilded. The fences with the Wyanad and Tholpaty reserve forests have been removed creating a borderless reserve of Malabar rainforest.  There are just five rooms, a very low impact wilderness guesthouse. Guests eat in the kitchen where local delicacies are cooked. The only activities offered in the wilderness reserve are guided walks. The Travancore flying squirrel, Nilgiri marten, Lion-tailed macaque, Brown palm civet and the Nilgiri langur can all be seen in the reserve along with elephants, gaur, tiger and leopard. The regular presence of wildlife enthusiasts and fieldwork students in the forest has significantly reduced poaching, cannabis cultivation and illicit liquor manufacture. The guesthouse has grid hydroelectricity, grey water is cleaned through a reed bed, brown water goes into septic soak pits. All the staff are from local villages, fresh fruit and vegetables come from the villages, spices and honey comes from the local tribal co-operative in the village.

 

The Preserve Alleppey Society

http://preservealleppey.com/index.htm

IRTA 2018 Silver Winner, Urban Neighbourhood

The Preserve Alleppey project was started by the Lion’s Ladies Club of Alleppey in 2000. They recognised that tourism could be used to preserve the character of the town. The group initiated the first garbage collection in Alleppey in 2003 and undertook a canal cleaning and beautification project on St George St. in 2004. Registered as a Charitable Society in 2004 the 15 members provide walking tours with local guides who point out local features which otherwise would be missed and introduce local food and crafts. . Educated women not formally employed found an opportunity to work creatively and to do something to better the town. The funds raised in 2006 -2007 were donated to a Self Help Women’s group set up by the local women’s college to manufacture paper bags providing employment and reducing the use of plastic. The Society is now in the process of documenting Alleppey with a view to publishing a guide to its history and buildings and the different local and migrant communities which have made it their home. The judges recognised that the Alleppey Society is successfully using tourism to create local pride and to contribute to conserving the town. It is a model which could, and should, be replicated elsewhere.

 

Kerala Responsible Tourism Mission

www.rtkerala.com

IRTA 2018 Winner, Outstanding Achievement

The judges were pleased to receive an application from the Kerala Responsible Tourism Mission in the Best Cultural Immersion Tour Operator category. The judges wanted to recognise the outstanding achievement of Kerala’s Responsible Tourism Initiative which over the last ten years has piloted a range of approaches to securing additional livelihoods for local communities and enhancing the guest experience. The Village Life Experiences provide a cultural immersion for guests who benefit them and the villagers who create and share those experiences with their paying guests. These interactions are based on mutual respect and create shared memories and provide an additional income, an incentive, for those villagers to maintain their traditional practices. Forty farmers have restarted paddy cultivation and local arts have been granted a new lease of life. Some 1,100 local people are benefitting from tourism to Kumarakom. This is an exemplary initiative which has been recognised internationally. Now moving beyond the development phase, Village Life Experiences will in 2018 be extended to 20 new villages in all 14 districts of Kerala. Rarely are initiatives piloted, tested, assessed and fine-tuned and then rolled out at scale. This is an outstanding achievement and one that should be widely replicated.

Kumarakom, Kerala, India WRTA 2018 Gold
www.keralatourism.org/responsibletourism
www.rtkerala.com

When Kumarakom was transformed into a tourist destination, the sector offered remunerative employment for local villagers mainly in construction and landscaping. As the resorts and hotels moved into the operational phase employment in the sector fell dramatically as the industry employed semi‐skilled workers from afar. There was considerable ill feeling about the consequences of the growth of tourism with litter and sewage pollution of the backwaters and the filling of paddy fields for building. Kerala increased the regulation of the industry and worked with the panchayats to control and remove waste. The Responsible Tourism programme addressed the environmental challenges and increased the positive socio-economic impacts through encouraging the growing of produce for the industry and creating Village Life Experience tours to improve the visitor experience and ensure that local people had a stake in the industry and benefited from it. There remains some criticism of tourism impacts but the community’s view is now overwhelmingly positive. An extensive household survey in 2015 found that for households not involved in tourism 61% that that tourism had positive impacts (it was 70% for households engaged in tourism). 34% of those not engaged in tourism thought that it had both good and bad impacts, less the 0.5% thought the impacts wholly bad. In Kumarakom tourism has been used to make better places for people to live in and for people to visit and what has been learnt in Kumarakom is now being rolled out across Kerala

Coconut Lagoon, Kerala, India WRTA 2018 Silver
www.cghearth.com/coconut-lagoon
Coconut Lagoon is a destination resort in the backwaters of Kerala, an extension of the village of Kumarakom. They have consistently worked to create shared value for the local community, by creating opportunities for local people which go beyond employment and the sourcing of local produce. Sukumari, an old lady from the community, makes a living by weaving and selling screw pine from her shop within the grounds, she makes Rs.10,000 (135USD) per month. Smt. Shantha, the owner of a small tea shop in the village, provides chai from a copper samovar on the old plantation tea canoe within the Coconut Lagoon and a local man is employed as the resident naturalist. All these are examples of creating additional shared value for the local community ( and enhancing the guest experience), in addition to the economic impact of employment and local procurement.

Spice Village - CGH Earth, Thekkady

www.cghearth.com/spice-village

IRTA 2019 Judges' Award, Outstanding Contribution

Clean Green Earth Hotels were pioneers in environmental, social; and economic sustainability and they have developed a series of destination experiences in sixteen boutique resorts all of which respect nature, build social relationships with their neighbours and through their neighbours participation and their insights and inspiration, create unique and memorable experiences. Early adopters of Responsible Tourism they have created experiences that pay “homage to nature and engage closely with local people and their cultures.” They have proved that “less can be more and that true luxury is an experience rooted in simplicity and soul, transcending mere form and ostentation.”

When the judges saw their application for Spice Village amongst the others, we decided to recognise the scale of their contribution and the success of the CGH Earth portfolio. They have been recognised in the World Responsible Tourism Awards in 2018 for Coconut Lagoon. Spice Village was established in 1991 built by the local Mannan in their traditional style using split bamboo and elephant grass; the latter gathered with permission from the forest, the removal of the grass reducing fire risk. Earthern clay tiles were used to construct the floors and the furniture of pine was and is made locally from recycled packing crates. Rainwater harvesting, solar lighting and hot water heating, biogas made from kitchen waste used for cooking, drinking water purified on site, local activities in with the community, water from the sewage treatment plant used to water the grounds – they have been thorough in their approach to sustainability and created a great guest experience.  The food, recipes and décor are all local, the employees are drawn from neighbouring villages and particular efforts have been made to recruit female staff by creating a comfortable; working environment for them.

CGH Earth were pioneers, and they are still leaders.

 

Neeleshwar Hermitage

www.neeleshwarhermitage.com

IRTA 2020 Silver Winner, Best Hotel

Natural laterite stone and recycled wood was used to construct eighteen cottages, with thatched roofs and the maximum use of natural ventilation and light in the local vernacular style. Local masons, thatchers and other craftsmen were employed for the construction and decoration of the cottages. The property harvests water and greywater is used to water the plants and lawns on the property. Locally produced cotton or recyclable paper ios used instead of plastics. Guests drink filtered water from jugs rather than using plastic bottled water. They employ over 90% local workers to boost the local economy, they used local craftsmen for wood and granite carving, as well as a small local architect’s practice. 90% of the managerial staff on-site are also local. They have ensured full insurance for all their workers, including day labourers and they have provided a lighted pathway through their property to ensure easy access for locals to the beach and sea.

 

© 2020 The Responsible Tourism Partnership 
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