Prospects and Problems of Tourism Sustainable Tourism, Policy Measures at National Level Part 5

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Sustainable Tourism

A rapid and massive movement of tourists within a shorter span of tourist season puts a heavy pressure on tourist resources. The usage of tourist attractions is likely to be damaged beyond repair and their life span may even get shortened. Their popularity suffers a loss, the number of tourist arrivals gradually falls, and generation of job comes to a halt. As we keep on taking some measures to restore the charm of tourist sites this stage of decline does not seem to have set in fully. But there are many hill stations, beaches and monuments which we have not cared to see that they shine and provide some job opportunities to the people.

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In both situations, either there is the degeneration of tourist spots because of the overuse or misuse of their resources or an unmindful neglect of their premise has left them underused. The growth of tourist culture demands to practise tourism on sustainable basis. A sustainable tourism allows to exploit tourist resources for a long time and never brings a full stop to the creation of job opportunities. Sight seers in summer tourist resorts keep people engaged in tourist occupations. In high altitude areas of the Himalaya, the induction of winter tourism and keeping people occupied in replenishing the stock of the cottage industry products for sale in the next peak season have offered them sustenance all the year round. To keep alive the tourist friendly activities in all tourist areas is the life and blood of sustainable tourism. Prolonging the conservation of environmental attraction by avoiding anything which is fatal to it encourages people to derive their living continuously from tourist occupations.

Eco-tourism or environment friendly tourist activity forms a core segment of sustainable tourism. It requires preserving the ecology and local cultures of an area. A good quality of air and water, well maintained biodiversity, and organised human efforts are the major components of eco-tourism. Keeping up harmonious relationship among them is the growing need because a chain of interactions locks them together. The location of cement factories was started with full force in tourist regions of Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir valley some years back. Extraction of limestone, emission of dust, fumes, and noise disturbed the ecological balance and was least eco-friendly in these states depending largely on tourism.

A hard decision may soon be required in regard to the promotion of regulated or an area-selective type of mass tourism to let it not develop haphazardly anywhere and everywhere. It is a strategy to regulate the tourist movement to see that it does not exceed the carrying capacity of a tourist resort in terms of its environment and infrastructure.

This approach keeps the cultural legacy of the areas under check from getting harmed and protects our youth from cultural alienation.

The important task ahead is to make our people accept tourist culture as an instrument of development social change and national integration. A three-point strategy has been framed to living home the full potential of travel tourism. The first step is to create ‘awareness’ for tourism within the community. We as hosts must be aware of our identity while welcoming the guest tourists. The second is the step to tone up the ‘infrastructure’ by providing adequate and easy transport, all type of formal and informal accommodation as well as other amenities. Third is the step to awaken people for effective ‘marketing’ of regional attractions of the landscape, area’s heritage, and varied services to the tourists. Tourism is rightly described as an extremely complex product of the combined efforts of numerous organisations formed for carrying forward the aforesaid strategy.

Policy Measures at National Level

The National Authority of the Union Ministry of Tourism and the apex body like India Tourism Development Corporation take policy decisions on the basis of periodic survey reports. The necessary feedback for drawing the guidelines is also supplied from state tourism authorities, regional bodies of hoteliers, and travel companies.

The trend in respect of the number of incoming foreign tourists generally exceeding the numbers of outgoing Indians has reversed during the last couple of years. If Indians going abroad are more than the tourists coming into the country as it happened in 2004. Our foreign exchange earnings tend to get reduced. The National Tourism Authority has to re-examine such a change in order to keep it within limits in country’s larger interest.

All aspects of the current status and changing trends of tourism are monitored while laying down guidelines for regulating the tourist traffic and for incorporating the amenities or incentives required for its promotion. Budget outlay for different segments of tourism and travel industry is proposed accordingly.

Concessional Fares and Amenities

Now days, a number of travel promotional schemes are advertised to catch the fancy of tourism conscious people through point and electronic media. At first the whole lot of literature on tourism produced for its publicity at the country level proves handy for the international tourists. Incentives in the form of discounted holiday packages for air and rail travel are made available for different age groups, members of families or group travellers for high and low tourist seasons. Privatisation of air lines both for domestic and international flights included in the national policy has become a reality in India. A good deal of publicity for the sale of tickets at reduced rates both by official and unofficial agents is the result of growing competition among the air companies.

‘Apex Tickets’ are being sold between 50% and 60% cheaper than full economy class fare, with certain condition. Apex stands for Advance Purchase Excursion Fare. These low-cost fares increased the number of domestic tourists by 30% during the year 2004. Another concession is known as ‘stand by’ discounted ticket. It is directly available at the airport in case there is a free vacant seat declared at the last movement. A ‘round the world’ ticket giving more discount allows a tourist to make several stop overs into India.

The policy adopted for allowing private airlines to fly, not only gives a choice of flight on many routes but also cares more to provide efficient services during the travel. As concessions in air fares multiply, even the review of rail fares in air-conditioned coaches and luxury trains has become unavoidable to stand in competition.

It is the job of the National Authority to facilitate easier air connections from selected air ports for neighbouring countries in Africa and Asia for international tourists. While the provision of travel services promotes tourism, the concessions and rebates in ticketing are the real incentives to add to the numbers of tourist arrivals. The upkeep of travel infrastructure also includes certain follow up steps, equally the responsibility of the central authority. This refers to cover up the gaps and to remove the lacuna noticed in its operation. In cite one instance, travel from Delhi to Bhubaneshwar is highly popular among tourists but there is only one flight a day for this side. It is less costly to reach Bangkok in Thailand than this important destination in Orissa.

The need for development of airports to the highest international standards and expansion of their network in these days of speedy travel is an admitted fact. The coming up of international airports at Amritsar and Srinagar is a great step forward to boost traffic to tourist hubs in India’s north western region. Bringing Guwahati on the international air map is a boon for the central corridor of Assam valley, so for untouched by active tourism. It will allow it to act directly as a traffic feeder for all our north-eastern states. Even the opening of more foreign consulates in these areas can swell the number of international tourists by prompt issuing of the visas. Another policy proposal to re-emphasize the opening of selling outlets at subsidized rates will be worthwhile for promotion of tourism.

Such facilities are of greater advantage not only for the tourists but for the host community as well. It creates a booming employment for the local people and is bound to make them gainfully enterprising in days to come.

Imbalances in Tourism

India, because of its vast size and a very long history, has a great scope for vigorous tourism to countless types of its attraction. So far, we merely come across a few ‘islands of developed tourism’ scattered amidst many areas of stagnant tourism. The area of active tourism is too small in proportion to the country’s size and its diversities. Down south, Mysore-Bangalore round about is overvalued while northern Karnataka lies neglected for tourism. Along sea beaches of Goa, Kerala, and Orissa are famous tourist destinations while beaches of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh are yet to pick up. Hill tourism in the newly carved states of Uttaranchal and Jharkhand, and tribal tourism in Chhattisgarh or in Arunachal Pradesh are yet in infancy. Aggressive marketing of these tourist states is required to bring them to the level of what Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh have achieved.

There are wide gaps also between the arrivals of international and domestic tourists in a number of areas. Foreign tourists formed 75% of the total number of tourists in Jammu and Kashmir and 55% in the tourist friendly Rajasthan. But their proportion has been 10% in Goa and only about 3% in Himachal Pradesh. How can anyone agree that Himachal Pradesh would fail to attract them in larger numbers if practical steps are taken in that direction? On the other hand, a good number of foreign visitors comprise over 3 million of tourists coming to see the Taj Mahal every year and a very few going to equally attractive Ajanta-Ellora caves. Surprisingly, relatively more foreigners are reported to be visiting MacLeod Ganj (Dharmsala) in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh where Dalai Lama resides. Lesser Numbers of them are seen in Kulu-Manali region of high Himalaya blessed with for richer natural attractions and organised adventure sports. The lack of an adequate and focussed publicity seems to be the cause of this current trend.

Rajasthan could allure the highest numbers of high spending foreign visitors by publicising the places and Havelies of erstwhile Maharajas and rich traders of the desert state. Kerala succeeded by becoming the poster boy of beach tourism combined with Ayurvedic practices.

A national policy is better fitted to reduce such an unfair distribution of tourism by publicising integrated tourism circuits. These circuits can take off across all states and at least one destination in each of them can be developed as a base station. The re-designing of interstate package tours may be proposed to the states for taking them up jointly.

For example, Kerala and Tamil Nadu up and down their forested hill divide, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttaranchal along their tracks of temple tours and Buddhist monasteries hold a great promise. An extension of tour of the ‘Sand box’ of Rajasthan up to Gujarat coast provides a diversity of refreshing experience. Already India’s Central Tourism Ministry has earmarked Guwahati-Shillong and Arunachal Pradesh in three north-eastern states as an interstate circuit of eco-tourism and another of the Buddhist destinations in and around Bihar. The question of providing even the budget accommodation at prime sports in many wayside halts in undeveloped tourist areas has also been taken up.

Management of National Disasters

Major natural or man-made disaster is termed as national disasters when they extensively cover a number of regions or states of the country. At one stroke they snatch the livelihood of people depending on tourism. The recent destruction brought about by Tsunami seismic sea waves over large areas of our coastal regions has been a national disaster. The continuing terrorist activities of militants in many other parts of India are also man-made national disasters. Whenever the very existence of Sea beaches has been washed away, beach tourism is lost completely. Similarly, in many of our tourist area, the highly sensitive tourist industry has suffered large scale wastage of amenities because of the militancy. Kashmir is a singular example of such a region. Such disaster can be managed by adopting a national level strategy to restore tourist industry and heal the wounds of the local people depending upon it. More than the funds, active participation of the local people of lending a helping hand by their sympathiser go a long way in reviving the tourist activities. An important example is the supply of bamboo to the victims of Tsunami disaster from the state of Mizoram. So far away from the scene of the destruction. The freight for carrying them to Tamil Nadu was borne by the north-eastern railway. This instant wave of sympathy for the suffering community resulted in re-building of living structures for them so that they could re-start earning livelihood from tourism.

A single national agency could instantly pool its resources for evacuating all international tourists not only from tsunami hit areas in our own country but also from such areas in the neighbouring countries. Even visas were issued overnight to the stranded tourists in our neighbourhood. It has been an example of best crisis management by national agencies working under the Govt. of India. Developing the ruined sea beaches was no easy task. Still the base minimum was achieved to begin the restart of tourism as booming industry once again cheap packages and incentives helped its revival to such an extent that Port Blair was reported as one of the most sought-after foreign tourist destinations in the world. It is possible for a National Agency to take up the launching of an awareness campaign all over the country to extend a helping hand for the sufferers.

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