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  • Writer's pictureBenny Kuriakose

Importance of Cultural Tourism in Kerala

The long-term sustainability of tourism in Kerala depends on delivering a high-quality tourism experience within our host communities. It depends as well on the wise use and conservation of our natural resources; the protection and enhancement of our environment; and the conservation of our cultural assets which includes heritage.

List of Contents

1. Trends and Patterns

Heritage tourism is growing at a faster rate than any other type of tourism. Beach tourism was the buzzword in the 80s, eco-tourism was in the ’90s and now it is the turn of heritage tourism at present in the world tourism scene. Travellers are looking for experiences. As the world gets more high tech, there is a growing demand for experiences that are authentic to the culture and heritage of the place. The tourists want heritage, culture, education and adventure which are authentic. People will continue to travel, although how they travel may change. They are looking for more authentic and spiritual experiences and their travel to lesser-known destinations have increased. Rural festivals and events with a good mix of cultural experiences are in great demand.

Click to know more about Maqam Masjid

2. Development of Comprehensive Development Plans

Comprehensive tourist development plans are essential as the pre-condition for developing any tourist potential of a place. It should be a fundamental principle of any tourist development plan that both conservation, in its widest sense and tourism benefits from it. Heritage sites are important economic and cultural assets that should be given publicity, advertised, and promoted. When it comes to the overall holistic heritage tourism development of Kerala, the following objectives shall be followed;

  • Kerala will practise and promote its heritage and culture in a sustainable way without affecting its unique qualities and its significance.

  • The cultural assets of Kerala, their values and significance, will be conserved and safeguarded for this and future generations.

  • Kerala will continue to be a developing area and will support and further the vitality of the local community.

The tourists will need hotels, hostels, restaurants, and several types of transport. They may want shops to meet their specific needs. Providing all of these is important for heritage sites for without them their culture will be inaccessible for any. It is not the normal function of the government but requires co-operation between public authorities and the private sector. Tourism is a commercial activity and the tourists look for fun and recreation. It is a bit difficult to control, but tourist experiences must be controlled. All cultural assets are not equal in terms of attractions. A small number of tourists really seek a deep learning experience. Not all cultural tourists are alike. Affluent tourists sensitive to local culture will stay in local accommodations, have local food, and have basic facilities. This represents a tiny portion of the traffic.

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3. Culture and Intangible Heritage

One of the important strategies on heritage tourism should be the conservation of intangible heritage. According to the definition agreed upon in the 2003 Paris Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage- "Intangible heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity."

Click to know more about the conservation of Paliam Palace

As far as possible, the intangible heritage should not be removed from its context or setting to the extent that the authenticity is affected. The presence of traditional torchbearers is necessary to give life to the heritage. The integrity of the cultural space plays a major role in presenting an authentic experience. Although it may not be traditional, highly commoditized attractions by the tourism sector for easy consumption have a shorter life cycle. The intangible heritage helps the visitor to gain a deeper understanding of the place and the culture. Many questions can be raised whether the cultural performances organized for the visitors taken from their original context, can be considered as part of the intangible heritage.

Click to know more about the conservation of Paliam Palace

4. Economic Growth and Tourism

There is a dichotomy between satisfying the pressure for economic growth through tourism and protecting the cultural heritage sites and monuments that lie at its heart. Tourism and heritage management must be integrated to have an outstanding product having mutual benefits. Quality standards and authenticity should be maintained to support tourism as well as cultural heritage. The heritage tourism project should not be driven by tourism considerations but managed by the principles & conventions of the international guidelines on cultural heritage management. The success of a project depends on how heritage assets are converted into heritage tourism products. Access and proximity decide the potential number of visitors. Time availability decides the quality and depth of experience sought.

Click to know more about the conservation of Paliam Nalukettu

5. Role of Local Community

Local Communities should benefit from cultural tourism and it should not cause any disruption of the local life, customs and the development of the area as a whole. The best long term interests of the people working in any local community should be the primary determining factor in selecting options for tourist development. This should be integrated with local-level plans. The very assets on which heritage tourism depends- the cultural and natural heritage, are part of the daily life of the people and can be threatened by overexploitation and abuse.

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6. Education and Interpretation

One of the major aims of heritage tourism projects should be to provide an environment that educates the public at different levels. The visit should be made enjoyable and interesting for everyone. At the directly conceivable level, it educates about the conserved monuments, other tangible and intangible heritage and their various components. Educational programmes should assist and invite tourists to respect and understand the local way of life, culture, history and religion. Tourist policy should take these factors into account.

Click to know more about Port Museum

Interpretation is the means by which people can understand the values and significance of the heritage site or a performing art etc., both as a whole and as individual elements. There also have been significant technological developments in interpretation since the 1990s, particularly in such areas as GPS and computer-generated imagery, touch screens, mobile technology and video and audio wands which could be applied to improve communication of the values to the visitor.

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7. Conclusion

“Ill-conceived and poorly planned tourism development can erode the very qualities of the natural and human environments that attract visitors in the first place.” Literature is replete with stories portraying tourism as the destroyer of communities and culture. Some tour operators exploit the local culture and the heritage assets while providing little in return for the community or the continuing care of the assets. This can lead to cultural damage and the degradation of local economies and social structures.

If the same places and things that attracted tourists are destroyed, then the development which takes place in association with heritage tourism will have a natural death. The highly seasonal nature of tourism visits to the area, and the possible concentration of visitor activity at certain key points within Kerala, may lead to a number of localized pressures. The religious monuments have a particular challenge in that during festivals, the numbers of visitors increase many times and their impact should be considered.

Click to know more about the restoration of Saukar Masjid

For more examples where dying heritage buildings were conserved and given back to the people, check out the pages below: