From a 'Vellattam' performance, a ritualistic enactment as part of the 'Gulikan Theyyam', at Pallikkunnu Thinakkal Tharavadu in Kerala's Kannur district in January, 2020. Photo: Manorama/Harilal SS

Piggybacking on responsible tourism, Kerala finds spot in New York Times' list of places to go in 2023

Kerala, with its natural charm, diverse geography, and rich tradition, has always been a place of fascination for outsiders, especially for those in the west. With the right mix of village experience, spirituality and a strong base of Ayurveda, the southernmost state of India never had trouble attracting visitors. Reputed agencies ranging from UNESCO to National Geographic magazine have identified the state's tourism potential. Now one more global honours have come its way.

The Thoovanam Waterfalls in Munnar, Idukki district, looks like milky white clouds scattering against the huge rocks. Photo: Manorama/Reju Arnold

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a backseat, the leisure and tourism industry in the state is on a path to recovery. The year 2023 is expected to see a surge in travel-hungry visitors. With that in mind, a list put out by the New York Times Travel on the “52 places to go in 2023” gains all the more significance. Interestingly, Kerala, with a slew of novel projects, has secured the 13th spot among global destinations listed by the NYT.

Though, the NY Times Travel listed typical touristic activities in Kerala like learning to climb a palm tree or visiting a temple under the to-do list, the focus was also given to the sustainable tourism efforts being implemented in the state.

Curiously, the article has stepped away from an archetypal photograph of Kerala's backwaters or its greenery. Instead, an image of a temple festival has been used. The article also suggests visiting a temple festival like Vaikathashtami or to watch an evening performance of a traditional dance among the list of activities to be done in Kerala.

The article terms Kerala as a place where “ the government has adopted an award-winning approach that allows visitors to experience village life while supporting the communities that host them.”

Lotus flowers in full bloom at Thrissur's Pullu Padam. Photo: Manorama/Russel Shahul

It gives special mention to the responsible tourism in Kumarakom and the street art venture at Maravanthuruthu which is in tune with the future envisioned for the industry by the state government.

Earlier this year, Kerala Tourism Minister P S Mohammed Riyas accepted the Global Award for Responsible Tourism for the Water Street project implemented in the state, at the World Travel Market in London. The Water Street project of Maravanthuruthu panchayat in Kottayam district drew special praise from the jury constituted by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism which coordinates tourism operations at the global level, to pick the winner from the Indian subcontinent.

Aravind Sukumar IPS lighting lamps at the Ashtami festival at the Sree Vaikom Mahadeva Temple. Photo: Manorama

In a pioneering initiative to take tourism deep into the state's interiors and rural hinterland, the Kerala Tourism department recently launched a project named 'STREET' in select spots, to help visitors experience the diversity of offerings in these locales.

The project, conceived by the Responsible Tourism Mission, is inspired by the 'Tourism for Inclusive Growth' slogan of The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The STREET is an acronym for Sustainable, Tangible, Responsible, Experiential, Ethnic, and Tourism hubs. Green street, cultural street, village life experience street, experiential tourism street, agri-tourism street, water street and art street are the themes that have been planned as part of the project.

Christmas in Kerala's Kuttanad. Photo: Manorama

"Our perspective on tourism is that the state should offer a novel and refreshing experience to visitors. It should also bring benefits to the local communities without upsetting their day-to-day life. This is why the government is giving high priority to the projects of the Responsible Tourism Mission. The RT model of tourism is now being extended to the entire state," Riyas said at an event a few months ago.

Kerala Tourism
A young woman kayaks through the backwaters of Munroe Island in Kollam District, Kerala, South India. Photo: iStock/SolStock

Here is the full list of places to go in 2023 by the New York Times Travel:

1. London, UK

2. Morioka, Japan

3. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

4. Kilmartin Glen, Scotland

5. Auckland, New Zealand

6. Palm Springs, California

7. Kangaroo Island, Australia

8. Vjosa River, Albania

9. Accra, Ghana

10. Tromsø, Norway

11. Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil

12. Bhutan

13. Kerala, India

14. Greenville, South Carolina

15. Tucson, Arizona

16. Martinique

17. The Namib Desert, Southern Africa

18. The Alaska Railroad

19. Fukuoka, Japan

20. Flores, Indonesia

21. Guadalajara, Mexico

22. Tassili n’Ajjer, Algeria

23. Kakheti, Georgia

24. Nîmes, France

25. Ha Giang, Vietnam

26. Salalah, Oman

27. Cuba

28. Odense, Denmark

29. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

30. Boquete, Panama

31. Tarragona, Spain

32. Charleston, South Carolina

33. Cayos Cochinos, Honduras

34. Burgundy Beer Trail, France

35. Istanbul, Turkey

36. Taipei, Taiwan

37. El Poblado, Medellín, Colombia

38. Lausanne, Switzerland

39. Methana, Greece

40. Louisville, Kentucky

41. Manaus, Brazil

42. Vilnius, Lithuania

43. Macon, Georgia

44. Madrid, Spain

45. Grand Junction, Colorado

46. La Guajira, Colombia

47. Bergamo and Brescia, Italy

48. American Prairie, Montana

49. Eastern Townships, Quebec

50. New Haven, Connecticut

51. The Black Hills, South Dakota

52. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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