Kanthalloor village panchayath in Idukki district has bagged the Centre's 'Gold' award for Best Rural Tourism project, an achievement which Kerala Tourism Minister P A Mohamed Riyas termed as an endorsement of the state's sustainable initiatives, a government release said on Wednesday.
The sustainable and inclusive STREET tourism project of the State Responsible Tourism Mission was successfully implemented in Kanthalloor village panchayat, the Minister said in a release issued by his department.
Kerala Tourism Director P B Nooh received the award from the Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, V Vidyavathi at a ceremony held today at the Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on the occasion of World Tourism Day, the release said.
STREET, which stands for 'Sustainable, Tangible, Responsible, Experiential, Ethnic, Tourism', is implemented in selected places across Kerala, based on United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) theme 'Tourism for Inclusive Growth', it said.
Kanthalloor was selected for the honour after an eight-month-long extensive evaluation of rural village projects along the length and breadth of the country, it said.
In all, 767 projects from around the country vied for the honour and five of them won 'Gold', 10 were selected for 'Silver' and 20 for 'Bronze', the release said.
"This honour is a huge endorsement for Kerala’s sustainable and responsible tourism initiatives led by the Responsible Tourism Mission," Riyas said.
He said it was even more heartening that the honour was presented to Kerala on World Tourism Day, for which the theme chosen this year by the UNWTO was 'Tourism and Green Investments.'
After the award was given to the state, Tourism Secretary K Biju said Kerala was a global pioneer in sustainable and inclusive tourism development and Kanthalloor is a sterling example of how well tourism should be promoted based on these ideals, the release said.
After receiving the honour, Nooh recalled that this is the latest in a series of international and national awards to be bestowed on Kerala's RT initiative, which has set a globally-appreciated model of tourism development that protects ecology, values culture and brings benefits to the local community, it said.
Located close to the famed hill station Munnar in Idukki district, Kanthalloor village was first brought in 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, the Tourism department's release said.
"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 were drawn up," it said.
The panchayat also stands as the first rural local body to implement a tourism project utilising the plan fund, it added.