The State government is making relentless efforts to turn every village in the State into a sterling model of sustainable and inclusive experiential tourism, Tourism Minister P A Mohamed Riyas has said.

He was speaking after felicitating people’s representatives and administrative staff of Kanthalloor village panchayat in Idukki, which bagged the prestigious ‘Gold’ award of the Government of India for the Best Rural Tourism projects.

“Villages and local communities can contribute immensely to the government’s relentless efforts to turn Kerala into a major experiential tourism hub”, Riyas said.

On the occasion, the minister handed over the national honour received by the State to Kanthalloor Village Panchayat President P T Mohandas.

Lauding the joint efforts of the State’s Responsible Tourism Mission (RTM) and Kanthalloor panchayat, the Minister said the activities successfully carried out in the panchayat have set a sterling model of promoting sustainable and inclusive tourism development and went on to become the first village in the State to achieve this national honour.

Kanthalloor, where the STREET (Sustainable, Tangible, Responsible, Experiential, Ethnic, Tourism) tourism project of RTM was implemented, won the honour after an eight-month-long extensive evaluation of rural village projects in the length and breadth of the country. In all 767 projects from around the country vied for honours and five of them won ‘Gold’, 10 were selected for ‘Silver’ and 20 for ‘Bronze’, he said.

Women-friendly tourism

The ‘Best Tourism Village Competition’ was conducted with an aim to make tourism a major driver of rural development and community well-being by identifying villages committed to activities that promote economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Also, Kanthalloor has the distinction of being the country’s first panchayat to implement women-friendly tourism, for which several programmes were held in collaboration with UN Women. As part of this the ‘destination security’ scheme was implemented and special women tour packages drawn up, Riyas said.

Tourism Director P B Nooh urged the panchayats in the State to engage in activities that further explore the immense potential of the State’s rural tourism.

Projecting Kerala’s unique topographical features, hospitality, traditional cuisine, culture, communal harmony and lifestyle before the tourists will benefit the local community, thus expanding the possibilities of Kerala Tourism to come up with unique and innovative products in future, he said.

Kanthalloor village was first brought into the ambit of the participatory tourism initiative ‘PEPPER’ before moving onto the STREET project, with the active participation of the local community and the village panchayat.