Kerala, a state located in southwest India, is one of the lowest-income places in the world, but it has remarkably high levels of social development. Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen classified Kerala as one of the three models of places in the world with high quality of life indicators with low per capita income. However, while Kerala has indicators that are considered exceptional, the Wayanad District in northeast Kerala is a pocket of incredible difficulty and deprivation, mainly due to challenges faced by the tribal population living in largely inaccessible forests and hill areas.
The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are the most prestigious business schools in the country and IIM Kozhikode is located about 40 kilometers from Wayanad. In collaboration with Notre Dame, the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, seeks to revitalize key children’s programs to be more effective, especially regarding issues related to children’s health and nutrition.
Definition of Problem
Tourism continues to be a major growth driver in the economy of Kerala, and Wayanad is singled out for its incredibly beauty. Trends over the last ten years show significant increases in both domestic and international tourist arrivals, despite the global recessionary trends in recent years. The figures for 2010 show an impressive increase of over 18 percent in foreign tourist arrivals and an increase of over 33% in foreign exchange earnings. The tourism infrastructure has not been growing in pace with the increase in arrivals and revenue generation. Demand is outstripping supply, both in terms of hotel rooms and home stay facilities. However, the most critical constraint is the one in terms of people who have the right training and orientation to provide services of an international standard to the tourists who visit the State of Kerala. Tourism requires a range of specialized skills from culinary to front office staff, guides, conservation staff, drivers and managers. The supply of adequately trained staff falls far short of the demand. A second aspect of concern is the impact of tourism on the local environment and the people of the State. Tourist projects are located in or very near ecologically fragile environments that are prone to irretrievable damage if right practices are not observed. It is also necessary that the people who reside in the areas where tourism develops, particularly in the hill and tribal areas feel involved in the development and realize tangible benefits from this development.
Initial Steps and Options
A team of IIM students in India will work with a team of Notre Dame’s DAT students to identify international examples of sustainable tourism that promote both human development as well as protect the natural environment, with leadership from and active involvement of local, indigenous communities. In particular, students should examine public-private partnership models for development, including training programs that ultimately provide tribal youth of the State high quality training in hospitality related trades, that will enable them to benefit from employment in tourism. However, since the tribal youth are significantly behind others in educational background, the cases should look for examples that includes a component of “make up” schooling that will help the tribal students to catch up with others in terms of basic academic and social skills.
Definition of Success
Careful analysis of case studies of successful sustainable tourism, and in particular the processes for dialogue and engagement that contributed to that success. The success will be in being instrumental in changes in policies and practices both with the government and the tourism industry so that the environment and human development concerns are addressed.