Revive agriculture to promote tourism

The feature in The Times of India, “Ecoturism charts a revival course” (Mar. 22, 2016) is informative.

Kerala State Forest Development Agency (KSFDA) has the right approach for tourism development: “Bringing more destinations under community management is the way forward for the department to tap the state’s full potential in ecotourism.”

Finally, there is some sense in the tourism promotion activities by the Kerala government: “Tourism in forest areas brings in a lot of pressure, and to make it non-destructive and sustainable, the participation of dependent tribal communities is vital. We need to educate people on the conservation of nature,” said K. J. Varghese, additional principal chief conservator of forests.

However, the next report, “Unsound marketing means destinations remain unexplored,” contains misguided ideas. “We do have a significant number of domestic tourists thronging these destinations, but to lure foreigners, we need adequate marketing programs,” said ecotourism director Joseph Thomas.

First, efforts for “luring tourists” are misguided. It demonstrates lack of an intelligent economic perspective about tourism. A good starting point will be to think tourism development can also benefit “locals.” Well manicured roads and gardens surrounding charming castles of the Loire Valley [2, 3] in France is an example for developing tourism destinations, while preserving nature, culture and history.

Trying to market specific destinations will be counterproductive. There needs to be a unified marketing theme for all tourism promotion activities. For example, the caption could be “Destination Kerala.” Within this invitation, there can be several themes: 1) beaches, 2) mountains, 3) lakes, 4) forests, 5) wildlife, 6) human agriculture, 7) nature conservation, etc. Specific destinations may be highlighted within these themes. And all marketing efforts need to focus on “Destination Kerala.” Haphazard marketing activities aimed at specific spots will dilute overall marketing effect.

Agriculture by humans is rare or non-existent in developed economies. Reviving organic agriculture in fertile Kerala will provide multiple benefits, including pesticide free food available locally, provide a tourist attraction, and “nature renewal” of abandoned agriculture lands currently lying idle. Such coordinated efforts will help develop Kerala’s tourism potential, at the same time provide supplementary benefits in other areas.

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