The word culture means a lot of things. It ranges from the culture a child learns at home to the culture of an era. Many civilizations have risen and gone down the sand of times. Only a few have managed to stand the test of time and get elevated to the status of greatness. Tourism is an international phenomenon. This has become an industry only in recent times thanks to man’s never ending thirst for travel. Be it for business or pleasure, travel and tourism are here to stay and has achieved the status of the largest job provider.
Kerala is a unique destination which has gained international repute thanks to it rich diversity in places of natural beauty. The depth of Kerala’s cultural heritage has significantly strengthened tourism in the state. The theme for this year’s Tourism Day which is celebrated every year on September 27th is ‘Tourism linking Cultures’. This theme is particularly true in the Kerala scenario.
There is no doubt that the super brand Kerala -‘God’s own country’ has received recognition far and wide as a much sought after’ must see place in a life time’. Cultural tourism will further add to these achievements by linking people across the globe. With the term global village becoming a reality, cultural exchanges have resulted in sharing of ideas, feeling and creating camaraderie among nations. In this sense the concept of linking cultures through tourism is of immense importance
It can be seen that Kashmir is slowly recovering from the menace of terrorism through its tourism based campaign. Even people who were terrorists have thrown away their association with terrorism and have shifted to tourism to earn a livelihood. The fact that Rajasthan has joined hands with Kerala in promoting tourism through a win-win situation is shining example. This is evident in the catch word which Rajasthan is using to promote tourism – “Kerala is God’s own country but God holidays in Rajasthan”. Thus in both the national and international scenario, Kerala stands to benefit through tourism, using cultural interactions.
In this era of technology based exchanges, understanding other cultures is of immense importance. This will help in spreading the message of brotherhood and concern for our fellow beings. Tourism being international in nature is an ideal medium to understand other cultures. It is understood that cultural tourism is one of the largest global tourism markets. This is also the one of the fastest growing branch in global tourism scenario. Even in this era of technology, culture and other creative forms are finding global acceptance. They are being used in a large scale to promote destinations by increasing their attraction and competitive value. Even though there is a line of though which alleges that tourism is destroying culture, it goes without saying that many art forms in Kerala like Kathakali and even ritual art forms such as theyaam have been given a shot in the arm through tourism affiliations.
It can be seen that many locations are developing their tangible and intangible cultural assets. This is being used to develop a marketing edge in face of cut throat competition. It also lends a local flavour to tourism products in these times when globalization is threatening to engulf everything. We can hope that this year’s world tourism day message will give the right impetus in breaking down barriers among nations and cultures and foster tolerance, respect and mutual understanding. In these troubled times and times when the world peace is at stake and often at the verge of war and divide, these values represent the stepping stones towards a more peaceful future. The year 2010 saw 940 million tourists crossing international borders. There has never been so much flow of tourist in recent times when so many people been to so many places, nor been so exposed to other cultures. It goes without saying that this has to continue. This interaction between individuals, communities, and their diverse cultures, leads to tolerance, respect and mutual understanding – the building blocks for a more peaceful world.
Kerala will stand to gain a lot by following this message of peace, through cultural linkages. Kerala tourism has gone from strength to strength and will march forward by imbibing this message of brotherhood and mutual co-operation. A third world war hangs like a sword of Damocles above our heads. The time is ripe to board the tourism bandwagon and exorcise this threat.