Kerala Tourism has been conferred the United Nations Award for creating innovative initiatives for sustainable tourism, the first time India has ever won the recognition. The state lifted the coveted honour for its sustainable development initiative in the world renowned backwater resort of Kumarakom, a Kerala tourism release said on Thursday.
Kerala Tourism bagged the honour at the annual United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism presented at Madrid in Spain.
Kerala won the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance, the highest honour given to the government bodies for shaping global tourism policies through innovative initiatives.
Kerala Tourism was chosen for the honour for its path-breaking 'Responsible Tourism' project in Kumarakom, which has successfully linked the local community with the Hospitality industry and government departments, thereby creating a model for empowerment and development of the people in the area while sustaining eco-friendly tourism. The Kumarakom initiative had earlier won the National Award for Best Rural Tourism Project in March last year and also the PATA Grand Award for Environment.
"Kerala, a popular ecotourism destination, portrays responsible and sustainable tourism in an exceptional manner," said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, at the awards ceremony. Last year, the Ministry of Tourism of Malaysia had won the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance for its Homestay Experience Programme. Previous winners in the category include Peru, Portugal and China.
Instituted in 2003 by UNWTO, the United Nations agency for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, the UNWTO Awards showcase innovation and application of knowledge in tourism with the aim of effecting governance and society. UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation was given in four categories --- Public Policy and Governance; Enterprises and NGOs; Research and Technology. Two other categories UNWTO Ulysses Prize and UNWTO Award for Lifetime Achievement recognise individual contributions.
"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.