Thanks to economic and technological development, the tourism industry has witnessed a massive boom in recent years. But what the tourism industry is yet to fully realise is that with great luxury, comes great responsibility, i.e. responsibility towards the impact of tourism on environment and towards the ecology and economy of the tourist destination. While a lot of tourist destinations across the country survive on tourism as their major source of income, it is also important to realise the need for sustainable tourism in such places.
Positive & Negative Impact of Tourism
While on the one hand tourism has been beneficial to rural areas of the country, it cannot be ignored that in the long run this module will exhaust all the available resources and leave these destinations to rot. So, on the positive side tourism has brought about employment opportunities in rural areas and it has brought about economic progress for the locals thus also paving the way for educational progress. On the flip side, however, the construction of new infrastructure to make tourism possible, such as hotels, roads, restaurants, shopping areas, etc has led to destruction of natural resources such as mountains, forest areas, rivers, and oceans. This in turn gravely affects the naturally growing flora and fauna of the area. Wildlife is often forced to retreat into even smaller areas of habitation, thus restricting their natural needs and instincts. Furthermore, the downside to economic opportunities created by tourism is that these jobs are mostly seasonal and are adversely affected if there is some kind of a natural disaster in the region, or worse, a national economic recession. Not only is the environment affected, but also the heritage sites are gravely impacted by increased pollution in the city, littering, and overuse of the site.
What is Sustainable Tourism?
Sustainable tourism, also known as ecotourism, is a philosophy towards tourism that focuses on economic development while at the same time maintains ecological balance of a destination. Such a practice is beneficial to the local community in the long term, because it lays emphasis on sustainability by and of the local community, making use of locally available resources and providing employment to native residents of such a destination. In turn, the native culture of a sustainable destination is preserved, while also allowing access to such a place for tourists who want to explore new parts of the country.
How Can Sustainable Tourism Be Brought About?
Sustainable tourism, first and foremost, requires the involvement of the local community. The local community should be able to decide how far they are willing to accept external factors and to what extent can their land take the burden of tourism. Secondly, all businesses related to development of sustainable tourism should directly be owned by and involve human resources from the native community. Often big players come and set up their businesses in small tourist stations and as a result not only is the land and its resources getting affected, but also the local community have no relationship with such big businesses, landing them in a lose-lose situation. The very principle of sustainable tourism is built upon the fact that the local community should be able to reap the benefits of flourishing businesses in their own land, thus reducing the scope of exploitation. Furthermore, it must be the responsibility of the governing body of the land to educate its population regarding the existing ecology of the place or the heritage sites, in order to heighten the importance of the land. Additionally, all pre-existing knowledge of the local culture and heritage must be collated and capitalised upon.
Impact of Sustainable Tourism
Sustainability in tourism is important for the simple fact that this is our planet, we are the inhabitants of this world, and thus it is our responsibility towards our planet and our origins to ensure long term sustainability, especially so that the future generations are not threatened into extinction. Sustainable tourism tends to minimize the impact of mass tourism by employing traditional practices and recycling materials so as to ensure harmony of local culture and external influences. Sustainability in tourism also helps conserve wildlife and natural resources, as is evident from the establishment of demarcated wildlife sanctuaries or national parks. These prove to be major assets to sustainable tourism since they promote preservation of naturally occurring resources, while at the same time accommodating both human and wildlife settlements.
Your role in Sustainable Tourism
So how can you, one single individual, personally contribute towards sustainable tourism in India? Here are a few principles of sustainable tourism that you can follow at your level to ensure long term sustainability.
- Whenever you visit a new place, make sure that the hotel you are staying in or the restaurants you are eating at are owned and run by locals. Avoid going to big multi-chains of international MNCs.
- Try to use the public transport of a tourist destination as much as possible. It will go towards the overall economic progress of that city, town, or village.
- Don’t litter! Please! A majority of garbage in rural areas is because of the lack of responsible tourists. You won’t like it if someone came and defiled your house, don’t defile theirs! Tourism and environment should not become enemies.
- If you go shopping, try to seek out the products made by local artisans and craftsmen instead of shopping at big branded outlets.
- If possible, try to go to a sustainable tourism destination in the off-season. Not only will you be able to enjoy the beauty of the place more, but you will also indirectly help locals run their households.
So next time you visit a new place, keep these points in mind. The smallest action on your part can make a big difference in the long run.