Thiruvananthapuram: The murder of the Latvian tourist has forced tourism authorities to face the reality that Kerala, too, is a potentially unsafe destination. The Tourism Department, therefore, has ordered the first-ever ‘safety survey’ of tourism destinations in the state. The survey will be carried out by the Responsible Tourism Mission and would be completed by July this year. The survey will try to understand all the safety-related issues of a destination.
“The focus will be on the safety of guests,” said Rupesh Kumar, the state coordinator of Responsible Tourism Mission. The survey will map what has been termed the “grey and black” areas of a tourism spot. This will involve collecting information about unauthorized guides, quotation gangs, drug rackets, unregistered Ayurveda centres and all such places that are the potential hubs of illegal activities. The survey will be carried out in three modules. First, there will be discussions with the tourism stakeholders- the tourism industry, local businesses, local police stations and people’s representatives.
The general concerns aired during such discussions will be listed. The stakeholders will follow up these issues at their level. For instance, if a discussion throws up the issue of goonda menace in an area, the local police station will be asked to do a reality check. Then, each individual tourism property in the area – resorts, lodges, and homestays - will be subjected to a safety audit. “The properties will be asked to do a self-evaluation of the security issues that could prop up in relation to the safety of a guest. But more importantly, the survey team will do a thorough objective evaluation of the security infrastructure of the property, and this will include factors like the access of outsiders to the property and also the antecedents of those working there,” Mr Kumar said.
While these two – discussions with stakeholders and safety audit – will offer a “home view” of the situation, the “outsider version” will be provided by the tourists themselves. For this, a safety questionnaire will be randomly distributed among tourists who stay in an area. “All these inputs will be collated to evolve a tourist security map of the state, with the vulnerable and safe areas clearly defined,” Mr Kumar said. A ‘code of conduct’ for both tourists and locals, too, will be drawn up on the basis of the survey findings. The RT Mission is currently training 750 resource persons picked from across the state to conduct the survey.