A few days ago, Kerala Tourism announced a new venture called SAPARYA. Anchored by Tourism Resorts Kerala Ltd, one of Kerala Tourism’s many satellites, the project is about ‘Synergising Actions through Participatory Approach’. From what I can gather, it seeks to put community involvement at the heart of tourism development in Kerala.
That is a very laudable objective. But most of the literature I’ve read about the venture describes it as “novel”, “pioneering” , “unique”, “the first such project in the world” and so on. These descriptions leave me faintly uncomfortable and quite puzzled.
Uncomfortable because claims about SAPARYA’s uniqueness sound hollow. Community involvement in tourism is an idea that’s been around for quite some time now. So SAPARYA is certainly not the first to venture down that road. It’s also not clear so far how this project is unique or different from similar ventures that have been launched across the world.
And I’m puzzled because I thought Kerala Tourism’s Responsible Tourism initiative that was launched with much fanfare in 2007-2008 is about involving local communities in tourism and ensuring that local communities benefit from tourism. So how does SAPARYA differ from the Responsible Tourism initiative? Or is SAPARYA replacing Kerala Tourism’s Responsible Tourism initiative? And if so, what went wrong with Responsible Tourism in Kerala?
On the whole, the new project raises lots of questions. Now if we could only get some meaningful answers.