Thanks to conservation efforts lead by the local government and a relatively eco-friendly tourism industry, the palm-fringed beaches and backwater canals of this southwestern Indian state are in better ecological condition than many of the country's other coastal attractions. The region also boasts a high degree of cultural integrity. Unfortunately, "unplanned urban development" has proliferated recently and the high number of houseboats navigating the backwaters "is a bit much and diminishing the tranquility and spirit of the place."
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"The Kerala Tourism Department has stood out from other regions in India for its commitment to environmentally conscious tourism. Efforts made in this respect are commendable."
"Kerala in 2010 reminds me of Costa Rica circa 1995 in terms of the style and level of tourism development. The state recognizes the value of conservation and has taken steps to protect the ecosystem. Tourism entrepreneurs are developing and operating resorts for the most part in the spirit of sustainable tourism."
"Lots of good heritage restoration and preservation efforts that fit in, especially in the Port of Cochin, supported by the government and some eco-minded entrepreneurs. The sheer number of tourist boats on Kerala's waterways could be a problem in the future."
"Kerala needs to focus on defending culture and controlling development of its coastlines and backwater areas."