In 2013 over 850,000 people visited Kerala. They came for its bengal tigers, asian elephants and lion-tailed macaque. They came to stand under its waterfalls and boat across its emerald backwaters, to set eyes on its lush hills and breathe in the aromas in the spice plantations. They sampled exotic cuisine, were swept up in cultural festivals and soothed by age-old healing practices.
Close to a million travellers can’t be wrong: Kerala is a part of the world that must be experienced. Stretching upwards along the west coast of India, the region offers seemingly endless beaches each leading inland towards a different attraction and a unique way of getting there: cycle, row, drive, trek, climb your way through the backwaters, plantations, jungle, villages and towns.
It is every traveler’s biggest dream and the opportunity to strike nearly a dozen items from the ambitious adventurers’ bucket list. But whilst Kerala has forever changed the hundreds of thousands of travellers who visit it every year (link to other story), Kerala itself has not always experienced the same positive returns.
On the face of it, Kerala is doing pretty well. According to its official tourism website, keralatourism.org, Kerala is India’s “most advanced society”. It boasts a 100% literacy rate and thanks to a robust healthcare system has India’s lowest infant mortality rate coupled with its highest life expectancy.
That it has managed to achieve all this in the face of remarkably low per capita income has made Kerala a model for human development. Its people appear to be happy, healthy and politically active.
All these factors make it an even more attractive travelling destination. Seldom does one have the opportunity to witness a society existing in such simplicity, equality and harmonious productivity.
Yet Kerala still faces challenges. Despite human development, the region still lacks critical infrastructure, not least of which sanitation. A large portion of the communities surrounding the beautiful backwaters do not have adequate toilet facilities. As a result, human waste is often leaked into the surrounding water systems, endangering the ecosystem. Steps are being taken to address this and local authorities supply clean water twice daily. But as always, there is more that can be done.
Tourism is a major income generator for the region and the local tourism industry now provides employment opportunity for an astonishing 1.2 million people. There is no doubt the money spent on your Kerala holiday will trickle down to some of the local communities.
But if you found yourself transformed by Kerala, there are more immediate ways of returning the favour - like physically contributing to the improvement of sanitation infrastructure.
Keep the Backwaters Blue is an Inspired Escapes initiative that supplies basic amenities for communities living in the community of Kaikkattuthuruth (Kothad Village). So when you come on one of our Kerala cycling holidays, we ask that you raise funds for this project and spend a day on your trip to help install 5000L water tanks and septic tanks in the community.
Not only is it our way of channelling tourism revenue towards a sincere cause, but we also firmly believe that every visit to Kerala should include an opportunity to work alongside a society that is renowned for its resourcefulness, good character and empathy.