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Stakeholder and Community Involvement

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In this chapter, the stakeholders of the Padmanabhapuram Palace and their motivation in the tourism development are outlined. Moreover, their interests and conflicts amongst each other are described, two management issues at the site are presented and a solution for each one is given.

The support of stakeholders is essential for the development and successful operation of tourism (Dabphet, 2012). According to Freeman and Reed (1983) the term stakeholder embraces “any identifiable group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of an organization’s objectives” (Freeman & Reed, 1983). In a narrow sense, the authors define a stakeholder as “any identifiable group or individual on which the organization is dependent for its continued survival” (Freeman & Reed, 1983: 91). Tourism stakeholders include many different types of groups, however not all stakeholders have the same level of interest and may be less active or not active at all. (Dabphet, 2012).

In order to assess the needs and attitudes of the stakeholders of the Padmanabhapuram Palace, a full stakeholder analysis is done on the basis of the four-step approach to stakeholder mapping. The first step of this method is identifying the organization’s various external and internal stakeholders (Andersen, Fagerhaug, Henriksen, & Onsøyen, 2008). Looking at the identifiable groups or individuals on which the Padmanabhapuram Palace is dependent for it continued survival it can be concluded that the Padmanabhapuram Palace has several stakeholders, namely the local population of Padmanabhapuram town, tourists, tour operators, the public sector and government (+ the department of Archaeology), and UNESCO.

The second step of stakeholder mapping is analyzing the needs and expectations held by the stakeholders (Andersen, Fagerhaug, Henriksen, & Onsøyen, 2008). One of the main stakeholders for the Padmanabhapuram Palace is the Kerala Government, mainly the Kerala Department of Archaeology. It is responsible for the preservations and protection of the palace to ensure that the historical building stays in good condition and keeps its” authenticity (The Hindu, 2016).

As the tourist numbers are expected to rise according to Kerala tourism (2017), also the local tour operator as V.K.S. Travels (located in Thuckalay) might develop new packages which include a visit at the Padmanabhapuram Palace (Kerala tourism, 2017). The tour operator would benefit from the tourism growths and and also the cooperating stakeholders, as for example hotels, transportation or restaurants and local suppliers. Consequently, as also stated in the visitor management chapter, the transportation system will be developed and improved to transport the tourists to the temple more easily and the connection to the surrounded cities will be improved as well, where the local population also would benefit from.

According to Community Consulting India (n.d.), the plan is to improve the drainage system at the Padmanabhapuram Palace and also in the area around it. Due to massive floods, the lower locates drains are extremely damaged and even worse around the palace as they are not functional (Community Consulting India, n.d.). Accordingly, the Engineering Department of the Padmanabhapuram municipality is responsible for the drainage work. Consequently, the residents also profit from the improved drainage system. (Padmanabhapuram Muncipality, n.d.). Moreover, the satisfaction of the tourists, due to a working drainage system can improve. Consequently, the municipality should be interested in implementing the plan.

Moreover, the idea is to build a big shopping complex near to the palace as well as an inspection bungalow (Community Consulting India, n.d.). The intention is to raise the quality of life for the people of the residents who live in Padmanabhapuram Town. This construction may have a positive impact on the tourism at the palace as well, as the distance is short and people decide to stop at the palace to visit it. The tourists that are visiting the Palace can mainly profit from the actions of the stakeholder involvement. The development of the site is focused on the tourism growth and improvements to attract tourists to enable them an unforgettable experience at the Padmanabhapuram Palace.

The third step is mapping the relationship between stakeholders and the company objectives, as can be seen in the stakeholder map in the appendix 1 (figure 1). (Andersen, Fagerhaug, Henriksen, & Onsøyen, 2008). The final step is prioritizing and ranking stakeholders (Andersen, Fagerhaug, Henriksen, & Onsøyen, 2008).

Stakeholder conflicts

Given their different interests in the business, it is inevitable that conflicts arise between the different stakeholders of the Padmanabhapuram Palace. One potential conflict is the business decision to try being listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. This idea is likely to be supported by the public sector and government, tour operators and tourists, but could be opposed by the local population of Padmanabhapuram town. Despite the fact that becoming listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO brings a lot of benefits, not every stakeholder has to be equally happy when the palace would be characterized as a world heritage site. Even if the recognized site gets a new identity world over and the status itself would confirm about the outstanding and exceptional features of the listed site, which would bring international attention to the site. Hence, ensures economic benefits to the nation. There are still some downsides when becoming listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO (The Guardian, 2017). Listed places often receive extra media attention and tourists. The higher profile that listing brings can draw an influx of visitors that poorer countries cannot handle, mainly because it brings in floods of extra tourists whose footprint can do more harm than good. Furthermore, could it undermine a country’s right to make decisions about its own heritage (The Guardian, 2017).

Several cases illustrate that the principle of world cultural heritage is diverted from its official purpose and is used to promote tourism, or for economic and political reasons. Prestigious as it is, when a site reaches the list of world heritage sites, the title can negatively affect sections of the local population. One example is the 1997 listing of the historic Casco Viejo neighborhood In Panama City (Maurel, 2017). Since achieving a spot on the world heritage list, tourism in Panama City has increased exponentially, the central district became a true tourist attraction. Meanwhile, it relegated its poorest inhabitants to the city limits. The Casco Viejo neighborhood used to be a run-down neighborhood, but due to becoming a world cultural heritage site, the neighborhood underwent a huge transformation. The surrounding neighborhood was restored and modernized, meanwhile the people from the poorer classes were brutal evacuated (Maurel, 2017). The potential conflict with on one side UNESCO, the public sector and government, tour operators and tourists, and on the other side the local population of Padmanabhapuram town could occur if not handled appropriately. In many cities, experiencing a significant increase in tourists, especially in a short time, conflict occurs between the local residents and the tourists. This phenomenon can be measured on the basis of the Doxy’s irridex, which justifies residents” attitudes at different growth stages of a tourist destination (Reisinger, 2009). According to Doxey’s theory, when the number of tourists reaches maximum level, the tourism development in that region reaches the saturation stage, the rate of tourism growth is expected to be even higher, hosts become concerned over price rises, crime, and tourist rudeness, and eventually irritant by tourists” presence; tourists are perceived as an annoyance (Annoyance stage) (Reisinger, 2009). Therefore, it can be expected that in Padmanabhapuram town, the local residents may become more agitated towards tourists as well as the numbers continue to rise in the years following Padmanabhapuram palace placement on the UNESCO list.

In order to prevent this from escalating beyond repair, a series of town hall meetings where all different stakeholder meet should be scheduled every year, where civilians can express their opinions and concerns. Moreover, visitor numbers need to be monitored carefully within the first 10 years, which can be done by analyzing the number of booked tours. This way, peak seasons can be determined and a plan can be set up to potentially divert the tourists over the less busy months. The second stakeholder issue could occur between the tour operators (inbound and outbound), and UNESCO and the local government of the Kerala State, which also fundraises the Padmanabhapuram Palace. The Kerala government’s actions are to protect the palace and to ensure its preservation and its authenticity (, 2018). Due to the expected rise of tourism influx, if the site would be on the UNESCO world heritage list, the tour operators and travel agencies might offer more trips to the palace and include it in their packages. Consequently, their business will grow and they make a higher profit by selling and promoting a UNESCO world heritage site. The conflict can be that they are not interested in the preservation and protection of the site, only in making profit. Furthermore, the higher number of tourists can cause damage to the palace and the government is not able to fund it anymore, as improvements might have to be made.

To prevent the site from unexpected damages, it is recommended to inform the tour operators as well as the tourists about the promotional activities to maintain the site (Pedersen, 2002). Moreover, it can be useful to develop together, with the state government, a code of conduct which can help to protect the site and involve them to make financial contributions to the site and planned projects. These responsible actions can ensure a healthy tourism process at the Padmanabhapuram Palace (Pedersen, 2002).

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