Kerala: Why little-known tourist spot Maravanthuruthu won big at World Travel Mart in London

Maravanthuruthu cleaned up its act thanks to STREET, an initiative under Kerala Tourism's Responsible Tourism Mission.

ByDileep V Kumar

Published Nov 09, 2022 | 9:00 AMUpdatedNov 09, 2022 | 9:00 AM

STREET Arival thodu kayaking

Till yesterday, Maravanthuruthu grama panchayat in Kerala’s Kottayam district was just another tourist spot, mostly overshadowed by the world-famous Kumarakom village, 24 kms to its south. Today, it is basking in international limelight.

Thanks to the “Water STREET” project undertaken at Maravanthuruthu, Kerala won yet another tourism award, this time at the World Travel Mart (WTM), London, a global travel and tourism event.

The award was for “conserving water and improving water security and supply for neighbours”. As part of the project, 18 canals, three rivers, and a backwater stretch flowing through Maravanthuruthu were rejuvenated.

According to Kerala Tourism Minister PA Mohammed Riyas, the Water STREET project has shown to the world that tourism can also become a tool for water conservation if connected with local economic development.

“It is indeed a proud moment as the STREET project, which is a first-of-its-kind initiative in the world, got a global award. This award encourages us to take forward Kerala Tourism’s RTM (Ressponsible Tourism Mission) initiatives with more conviction and resolve,” Riyas, currently in London leading the Kerala delegation, said in a statement.

The next tourism hotspot

With international recognition, it is just be a matter of time before Maravanthuruthu emerges as a sought-after tourist destination. And the panchayat, with the help of RTM units and the local community is planning to project it as a rural tourism hub.

STREET Tourism Minister Riyas

Tourism Minister PA Mohamed Riyas with Tourism Director PB Nooh, WTM Responsible Tourism Advisor Harold Goodwin, and RTM Coordinator K Rupeshkumar, after receiving the global award at WTM in London. (Supplied)

“It all began with the rejuvenation of Arival thodu, a 3-km-long backwater stream (thodu) that originates from the Muvattupuzha river,” recalled TK Suvarnan, convener of the Maravanthuruthu Tourism Development Committee.

Arival thodu — which is shaped like a sickle (arival) and hence the name — connects two wards, Koottummel and Kulasekharamangalam, and once met all the needs, including connectivity and drinking water, of the people of these wards.

“But that was 35 years ago. The stream gradually got neglected and became a dumping spot,” Suvarnan told South First.

Then a group of locals joined hands to revive the stream. As the work progressed, the RTM chipped in with its Water STREET project. Now this stretch of water is all set offer tourists an experience of a lifetime,” said Suvarnan.

He also added that the wholehearted support of RTM coordinator Rupeshkumar K was pivotal in marking Maravanthuruthu on the world tourism map.

“RTM has strived to take into account economic and social factors while formulating tourism projects. And the STREET is its flagship initiative. It’s of great joy that it has got global recognition,” Rupeshkumar told South First.

What is the STREET project?

STREET, or Sustainable Tangible Responsible Experiential Ethnic Tourism Hubs, is a “participatory tourism development project” and one of the major initiatives of the responsible Tourism Mission of Kerala Tourism.

As per the plan, STREET will be implemented in 10 specially selected places of the state based on the World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) new tourism motto, “Tourism for Inclusive Growth”.

“Developing/rebranding destinations into theme-based streets and widening the area of tourism activities to reduce the tourist concentration in the main points is the aim of the project,” reads an excerpt from the STREET’s concept note.

“The project is envisioned to develop/transform the destinations into sustainable living responsible tourism villages in a thematic zoning mode,” it added.

The note also said the main mission is to develop thematic streets with the local community and local body’s support. The unique features of the area, like a water stretch, farms, local food varieties, livelihood activities, etc, will be unveiled to guests through these streets. The guests can choose the streets according to their taste.

STREET in Maravanthuruthu

At the same time, Sureshkumar C, member of the Maravanthuruthu ward of the Maravanthuruthu grama panchayatm said that other than the Water STREET project, local authorities are also undertaking Art STREET, Flower STREET, Cuisine STREET, Culture STREET, Agri STREET, and other projects to make the place more attractive.

The first step was, of course, cleaning up the Arival thodu.

STREET Arival thodu cleaning

Arival thodu being cleaned under the STREET initiative. (Supplied)

“The banks of the canals were protected with coir rapping. The cultivation of flower, herbal and vegetable plants was done on the banks. Once the free flow of clean water was ensured, water-related tourism activities like kayaking, rowing country boats, shikara trips were taken up,” Sureshkumar to South First.

“Marketing of local products and live fishing activities is another key feature,” he added.

Inaugurating the Water STREET project in Maravanthuruthu in June, Minister Riyas stressed the need to give a new look and feel to Kerala Tourism through experiential tourism after the sector was laid low for two years by the Covid pandemic.

The 10 locations identified for the STREET project:

  • Kadalundy in Kozhikode district
  • Thritala in Palakkad
  • Pattithara in Palakkad
  • Valiyaparamba in Kasaragod
  • Chekadi in Wayanad
  • Maravanthuruth in Kottayam
  • Manchira in Kottayam
  • Pinarayi in Kannur
  • Anjarakkandy in Kannur
  • Kanthalloor in Idukki