Kerala Tourism’s Barrier-Free Tourism Project won global recognition, as the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) made a special mention of the south Indian state as an ‘Emerging Global Destination’ in the Accessible Destination Awards 2019.
At the awards ceremony in Madrid on Wednesday, Kerala Tourism Director Shri P Bala Kiran received the conferment from UNWTO Secretary-General Shri Zurab Pololikashvili. The recognition was for the implementation of the project in the central Kerala district of Thrissur, which thus became India’s only destination to win the honour.
The award is instituted by World Tourism Organisation and ONCE Foundation that works for people with disabilities. The awards at the Spanish capital were given away as part of FITUR Trade Fair, which is a meeting point of tourism professionals the world over and the second biggest global gathering of travel and tourism professionals.
It was in March last year that Kerala Tourism launched the barrier-free project with the view of making 120 destinations across the state disabled friendly.
Thrissur, also known as the cultural capital of Kerala, is one of the first few destinations in the state to have created necessary infrastructure in all major destinations. This project, a role model for the entire state, was conceptualised by using funds under ‘Barrier free Tourism’ and the ‘Green Carpet’ Scheme.
Kerala Tourism Minister Shri Kadakampally Surendran, hailing the achievement, noted that the state has so far implemented the disabled friendly project in 80 travel destinations, of which eight are in Thrissur. “We deserve this honour. It will enhance Kerala’s reputation as a global tourist destination,” he added.
Kerala Tourism Secretary Smt Rani George said the UNWTO recognition is a result of Kerala’s keenness in meeting the new age international requirements. “For this, we receive immense support from private players as well,” she noted.
Kerala has been the first state to work as per the UNWTO guidelines on making tourist destinations disabled-friendly. Shri Bala Kiran said that Kerala Tourism is working towards making all its travel destinations disabled-friendly.
“The UNWTO award is an incentive for us to meet the target,” he added.
The work in Thrissur district has been completed in the beaches of Azhikode and Snehatheeram, the hill destination of Vilangankunnu and the scenic dams in Poomala and Vazhani. Under the ongoing major development projects, the work is being implemented in Chavakkad Beach, Peechi and Thumboormoozhi. The facilities include ramps, accessible toilets, lactation rooms, braille pamphlets, signage, touch-screen kiosks, audio and sign aids, wheelchairs and walking aids. They have been made available in major tourist destinations in the district.
Tactile path for the visually-challenged were created for the first time in Kerala in Azhikkode and Snehatheeram, while a wheelchair-accessible sunset viewpoint is the highlight of Vilangankunnu. There is ramp access for boating area in Poomala, while Vazhani became the first access-friendly in the state. As part of the ongoing project, the famous Thumboormoozhi hanging bridge and viewpoints will soon turn disabled-friendly.
Allotted Rs 73.5 lakh by the Department of Tourism, the work for the project was executed by District Tourism Promotion Council through Kerala State Nirmithi Kendra. The contract was taken over by Kochi-based Horizon Six, while the IT-related works were implemented by Keltron.
The Thrissur District Promotion Council has already received the coveted status as a listed supplier of PANTOU (Promoting Accessible Tourism around the World) network based in Europe in 2018. A number of persons with disabilities and senior citizens are visiting the destinations in the district.