A water-filled rectangular trench giving a hands-on feel of a canal with a floating bamboo raft (changadam) welcomes visitors at the ongoing Kerala Travel Mart (KTM), highlighting the spirit of the state’s famed Responsible Tourism (RT) that emphasises on ecological conservation and community development.
Adjacent to this installation at the entry are two sights bearing the signature of Malabar, highlighting government’s fresh initiatives to promote tourism in north Kerala – a specimen of upstate Kasaragod’s suranga irrigation tunnel and mock fights by exponents of ancient Kalaripayattu martial art.
These, and more, spectacles instantly draw people’s attention to the RT Stall at KTM-2022, conveying that RT is a critical component in sustainable and inclusive tourism development.
With its clean-blue water, the 12×7 feet ‘channel’ at the centre of the pavilion recaptures a common sight in the rural landscape of God’s Own Country. Though the bamboo raft gives a toy-like appeal at a glance, one can board it and glide across to the other side of the bank at the sprawling Sagara and Samudrika convention centres on Willingdon Island, the venue of the event.
“This is great fun,” said A.U. Faizal Khan, a Delhiite Malayali attending the May 5-8 KTM that has delegates from 69 countries, besides buyers from 25 states within the country. “It reminds me of my native place in lower Kuttanad,” he said.
Organised by KTM Society, the mart was inaugurated on Thursday by Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan
Perhaps more adventurous at KTM is the replica of suranga, the traditional water-management system which functions as a horizontal tunnel dug in the slope of a laterite hill. Employing gravitational force to extract underground water, the suranga enables the collection of this natural resource into a storage tank.
Kerala Tourism’s RT Mission, as part of its efforts to revive suranga based on ancient rustic wisdom, displays its working model at the mart. The apparatus has a narrow and dark passage, through which visitors at KTM enjoy walking with caution to find a trickle of water at the other end.
“The surangas are among the biggest natural wonders of the world. The guides here come from Kasaragod area, who double up as our regional coordinators” said State Coordinator of Kerala’s flagship RT Mission, A.K. Rupeshkumar.
“Tourism is not just about seeing places. It must be experiential. For that, we provide visitors enormous opportunities to interact directly with the ecosystem and our people,” he added.
KTM Society President Baby Mathew noted RT has immense scope to sustain tourism in the long run. “It gifts us not just new tourism products, but works for the socio-economic benefit of local communities,” he added.
As for the Kalaripayattu drills at the KTM stall, young practitioners of the celebrated Kadathanadan School clank their spears against metallic shields of their aopponents’, creating an audio-visual sensation of the martial art believed to own a history of three millennia. The half-a-dozen men from Puthuppanam Gurukal’s Kadathanadan Kalari of Vadakara in Kozhikode district have also put on display their weaponry.
The KTM Society, formed in 2000 as the country’s biggest organisation in the travel and tourism segment, has been working towards reviving the industry hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.