When resorts donate money or resources to the local community, it is not always philantropic. Often, it hides other motives.
Kovalam (Cove long, in Tamil Nadu - not to be confused with Kovalam Beach near Trivandrum in Kerala)) is a picturesque village on the way to the popular beach of Mahabalipuram, about 25 km from the hustle & bustle of Chennai. Kovalam was a traditional fishing village, but its proximity to Mahabalipuram has more recently also turned it into a tourism destination.
Hotel Taj is a high class resort established at Fisherman Cove, Kovalam, and caters to the Indian elite and well-off international tourists. Activities promoted here are centered around leisure and relaxation, without minimal interaction with the local community. The night rate at Hotel Taj ranges from Rs. 11,000 to Rs. 22,000 (€165-340 or £138-275, a hefty price in India.)
Hotel Taj markets itself as a socially-conscious resort by donating school fees for all local children studying from 1st to 8th Standard; and during the fishing off-season it also provides 75kg (165lbs) of rice to every adult man. All these benefits are provided in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Why complain then? In return for these favors, Hotel Taj has acquired land previously used by fishermen for drying and repairing their nets, storing their fishing equipment, and so on. Hotel Taj has effectively privatised a beach which must, by law, remain a public space. In addition, Hotel Taj exploits critical resources such as drinkable ground water and blocked the common road access of fishermen to their old temple. Finally, luxury bungalows have been built 30 meters from the sea shore, violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (a regulation that protects fragile coastlines in India.)
The annual financial donations provided by Hotel Taj to the fishing community amount to approximately Rs. 150,000. This money only goes to the fishing community of Kovalam Panchayath and neglects the minority communities such as Christians, Muslims and Dalits.
Our partners in India continue to monitor the situation and provide awareness-raising sessions with local communities, to let them know about their rights and how the tourism industry operates.
Sources: interview of the President of Kovalam Panchayath (assembly); Interviews of local people; visit to the Hotel Taj; Report from field visits.
- Hotel Taj's private beach
- Hotel Taj's swimming pool
- Hotel Taj's bungalow, 30m from the sea shore
- Hotel Taj's room rates as of February 2012
- Beyond the hotel's walls: the reality of Kovalam (2 pictures)
(Please note: Tourism Concern, Kabani or our partners are not responsible for the content of unverified reports.)