Kottayam: The Kerala State Government has launched a new tourism project to connect the rural areas with tourist spots in Kerala. The project called PEPPER or People’s Participation for Planning and Empowerment through Responsible Tourism is aimed to ensure cooperation of the public in tourism.

“The government aims at decentralisation of tourism sector with the participation of grama sabhas in planning tourism projects,” said Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran to Mathrubhumi.

The project will roll out at Vaikom in the pilot phase. It will cover Vaikom Municipality, Grama panchayats, including Chembu, Maravanthuruthu, Udayanapuram, TV Puram, Vechoor, Thalayazham, and Kallara. It has been learned that the project will provide employment opportunities to over 2000 people in the area.

Thalayolaparambu and Veloor Panchayats will be included in the second phase of the project. The project which will commence from October will be completed within 3 years.

The project will be extended to other villages which have significance in tourism after evaluating the pilot phase.

According to the project, a tourism grama sabha will be summoned under every local government.

PEPPER project includes tourism map, tourism directory and tourism marketing (National-International Tourism Expos, Online Marketing), farm trips, selection of beneficiaries, job training for 2000 people and approval and implementation of tourism projects recommended by the public.

Marketing of folk arts, rural products and handicrafts is also aimed under the project.

Water Tourism Project covering 197 kms by linking 8 rivers in northern India has great significance in tourism.

Minister Kadakampally Surendran informed that union tourism minister Alphons Kannanthanam has recommended to make a comprehensive plan for the renovation of beaches in the state.