Monday, 14 November 2011

Re-think tourism

Land is a critical zone of contestation. Land grabs by resort and real estate developers lack any process of ethics or community involvement.
The rapid proliferation of mega-resorts that often include hotels, residential housings, golf courses, marinas, shopping centres, entertainment facilities and even land strips for private jets, are wreaking havoc on the natural environment, affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers and fisher-folk.

Steady streams of Jeeps with hoards of people flashing their cameras disturb the natural habitat and wildlife.

Current tourism practices & tourist behavior are neither sensitive nor respectful of the natural environment they have come to experience.

Time we rethink how tourism operates in natural environment.

Tourism policy, planning & investment in India is increasingly being geared towards attracting international tourists and catering to their needs. Domestic tourist number in India are a 100 times larger than that of foreign tourist. It is time to listen to the voices and needs of domestic tourists.

Equally important, is to insure that tourism policies and activities provide maximum benefit to the local communities.

India has the distinction of having the largest number of working children in the world today. It is common to see children working in abysmal conditions in restaurants and shacks, selling curios and trinkets, beach boys and girls, rag pickers, tourist guides, or begging rich tourists for money. Because of their physical and economic vulnerability most of these children end up in a life of servitude, suffering sexual and physical exploitation.

Large-scale, infrastructure-heavy tourism development like 5-star hotels, golf courses & water parks exploit the scare and precious natural resources of a region like water and often it is the local communities who are adversely impacted. Time we rethink a form of tourism which gives rather than takes away from the place.

Tourism development plans and projects are often large, luxury and resource intensive. The benefits go to the big players in the industry. Small and medium enterprises which are often locally owned rarely get the subsidies and facilities so freely given to the big players. It is critical that tourism privileges and benefits local economies and local communities.

Places of worship are popular tourist destinations. These are spaces rich in cultural traditions. While visiting these places we must absorb the experience in a responsible and non-intrusive way.

Every day new beach fronts are developed for tourists – privatized beaches, hotels, resorts, & adventure sports. In doing so, this form of tourism development alienates the local communities from access to the sea, a key natural resource that is linked to their livelihood.

Time we rethink a kind of tourism by being sensitive to the needs and priorities of local communities.

Illustration by: Tara Goswami

EQUATIONS is a non-profit organization involved in research & advocacy on tourism issues in India.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.