Planning Board to bring out RT guidelines for panchayats

Planning Board to bring out RT guidelines for panchayats

Kottayam: Kerala State Planning Board will bring out guidelines by next year for grama panchayats that can take part in Responsible Tourism initiatives, State Planning Board member C P John said today.

Speaking at the three-day International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Kumarakom, he said the state has allocated Rs 4,000 crore for local self government bodies, but they do not have any guidelines to follow for spending on tourism.

Local bodies can contribute enormously to responsible tourism but they need to be given the freedom to spend money on such projects from their own funds and specific directions on how to do so, C P John said.

He added that the move will allow current destination panchayats to subsidise and provide other incentives to tourism oriented projects and facilitate their transformation from simple vacation spots to RT destinations. “It will institutionalise the interface between the tourism industry and local self government bodies,” said Shri C P John while speaking at a discussion on Local Self Government and Civil Society at the conference.

K B Valsala Kumari, Director, Kudumbashree detailed the initiatives taken by members of the women’s empowerment movement to support RT. C Jayakumar from the Thiruvananthapuram-based NGO Thanal spoke about the activities that can be undertaken by non-governmental groups, especially in the areas of waste management and cutting the use of plastic.

Dhanya Sabu, president of Kumarakom grama panchayat explained the much-lauded RT initiatives at the backwater hotspot and how it has transformed lives and livelihoods. KITTS director Dr Rajashree Ajith moderated the discussion.

It was followed by three concurrent sessions to deliberate on the economic, socio-cultural and environmental responsibilities of tourism. Discussions on the economic aspect were led by Dr Adama Bah, the Travel Foundation project coordinator for The Gambia and the keynote address was by Dr B Vijyakumar, Principal, KITTS.  Mason Florence, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), moderated discussions on the socio-cultural impact of RT. FAO/UN Food Safety Consultant Dr Anandavally gave a talk on the impact of food safety issues in the context of RT.

Saroop Roy, State Project Co-ordinator, Responsible Tourism Initiative, KITTS, delivered the keynote address at the session on environmental responsibility that was moderated by Lankan tourism expert  Srilal Miththapala.

An exhibition is being held along the sidelines of the conference featuring handicraft and indigenous products made at RT destinations across the state. Two-days of talks and discussions concluded today. The conference will end tomorrow with site visits by the delegates around Kumarakom.