The southern Indian tourist hotspot of Kerala has won the United Nations prestigious Excellence in Innovation in Tourism for promoting sustainable tourism, the first time the award has been awarded to India.
Kerala Tourism, the state’s tourism governing body, was recognized at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) awards for a slate of sustainability initiatives at the popular Kumarakom resort in near Kottayam.
Tourism at the resort revolves around the backwaters of the picturesque Vembanad Lake. Designated as a “Special Tourism Zone” by the Kerala Government, development in the area is strictly regulated whilst the hospitality industry is linked closely to the local community.
In a statement, the UNWTO said: “Kerala, a popular eco-tourism destination, portrays responsible and sustainable tourism in an exceptional manner”.
Tourism to Kumarakom has been partly driven by the success of Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’, a novel set in the real-life village of Aymanam which borders Kumarakom.
Previous winners in the Excellence in Sustainable Tourism category include Peru, Portugal and China.
UNWTO is the UN agency for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. Launched in 2003, the organization’s Awards of Excellence honours innovation in tourism.
“We are humbled by the UNWTO’s decision to confer this highest international award on our state,” said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar.
“It is a recognition of our continuing efforts to sustain global tourism, which can progress only if we consider the local community as our biggest partner,” he added.