017_Global12_InFocus_Tourism_5

Global issue 12

Global InsightSustainable Tourism Umaid Bhavan and the mighty Mehrangarh Fort on its rocky out- despite calls from signatories of the Convention on International crop, with the desert glowing gold in the late rays of the sunshine, Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) for is truly memorable. the governments of those countries to clamp down on this dreadful I am heartened that India has among its entrepreneurs a number trade. The Vietnamese government seems to take pride in farming ti- of pioneering resort and hotel owners who are determined to build, gers, and the Chinese have refused to stop the farming of tigers, from restore or provide eco-sensitive facilities alongside tribal people which they obtain the highly prized ‘tiger wine’. The attention now and wildlife or, in the case of the vast cities, to avoid contributing will also focus on leopards and lions, because without vigilance they significantly to the urban pollution. People like the Dominics and too will diminish in great numbers and be threatened with extinction, Ramapurams from Kerala run family-owned resorts that are totally be it in India or Africa. The over-hunted rhino is already endangered. committed to responsible tourism in southern India, and they do There are well-run parks such as Gir Forest in Gujarat, the last everything practicable to ensure their beautiful places coexist with bastion of the Asiatic lion in India, and I was fortunate to see lions local people and indeed encourage conservation. Butterfly gardens earlier this year when I visited Gujarat for the first time. In the Little are a fine example of that aspiration. India has a host of the most Rann of Kutch wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat, we also walked close marvellous butterflies and in southern India this is becoming a fea- to thousands of demoiselle cranes that migrate from the Siberian ture of well-run establishments. Equally, there are conglomerates steppes and fly over the Himalayas to Rajasthan and Gujarat, and we such as ITC, with luxury, business and heritage hotels, which may saw the endangered Asiatic wild ass – a shy and beautifully marked all be ambitious in their construction but at the same time are clear- creature. Such experiences are highly memorable and rewarding. ly seeking to be thoroughly eco-sensitive and responsible. I am, however, dismayed by what seems to me to be a lethargy In Rajasthan, the various princely houses have converted palaces over tourism in the union government and among politicians who into heritage hotels or home stays, strive to make conservation part seem to be unaware that it is the world’s largest industry and that of their ethos and are succeeding admirably. The desert has its own the whole country would benefit enormously if there were a truly challenges but I am never happier than waking up for the sunrise methodical approach to the promotion of India. It is a job for those and hearing the peacock’s call, or indeed anywhere watching the who are committed, enthusiastic and determined. sun set over a holy river like theGanga (Ganges) or the Narmada. For a country as large as India with all its diversity, the current level With just the sounds of village life or a pilgrim’s tinkling bell and of tourism cannot be considered impressive. Politicians should not simpleaarti offerings on the water, India casts her timeless spell. confuse the return of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) with tourists. A Small tourist organisations are becoming very popular with West- ern travellers. Village Ways – rewarded with a Responsible Tour- ism Award at the World Travel Market in London – takes people Politicians seem unaware that the whole trekking through the Kumaon and Garhwal regions of the Himala- country would benefit enormously if yas and gives them hospitality in village homes. The sheer size of the population inevitably threatens conserva- there were a truly methodical approach tion and responsible tourism. Only 3 percent of India is now in a jungle or forest form, whereas over a century ago India’s jun- to the promotion of India. It is a job for gles and grasslands were vast. Currently, tiger conservation is the those who are committed, enthusiastic subject exercising the minds of India’s hospitality industry, with a recent Supreme Court ruling setting out to ban all tiger tourism in and determined the core areas of India’s forests and wildlife parks. India definitely needs better regulated wildlife tourism but, per- sonally, I think that a ban would be a disaster and an open invita- few years ago, when a flight had been cancelled at Delhi airport and a tion for poachers to operate in the tiger reserves. Tourism should huge delay was the alternative, I found myself among a planeload of be doing a lot more for local communities, and it is also the local NRIs who were returning home to their relatives and who had very communities that will suffer most if this tourism is stopped. Their little experience of actual tourism in the land of their origin. In trying only other source of livelihood is a single annual crop and the for- to salvage a bad situation, on the coach journey from the airport to a est’s own produce. The fact that villagers and tribal people are al- luxury hotel that was to put us up for the night, I acted as tour guide. lowed to enter the forests and take wood for fuel and also to graze They were amazed, impressed and enchanted, as they would other- their cattle encroaches on the prey species and, of course, ulti- wise have been heading straight for their ancestral village or small mately the tiger. To restrict tourism to each park’s ‘buffer zone’ town. After a suitable curry buffet lunch, I suggested they spend their would not really work successfully as the big cats – leopards as afternoon visiting some of Delhi’s great heritage sites. The next day well – inhabit the ‘core’ area of the forests or jungles, and even they thanked me and said they would return, as tourists. now tourists are never allowed in the majority of those core areas. Be it mountains, countryside, great holy rivers, beaches, jungles, The buffer zones are not short-term options for tourism and, in soaring Hindu temples, magnificent Islamic mosques, Buddhist most cases, are not an option at all. stupas, deserted great relics of Hindu empires and Mughal cities, Tiger tourism keeps the tigers of India alive as an indirect source the wonderful Taj Mahal, the Bishnoi people welcoming you to of income for hundreds of thousands of people in many rural areas, their modest village or the wetlands providing winter homes for but if this ceases, following the Supreme Court ruling banning tour- millions of migratory birdlife, India has the capacity to enter your ism in the core areas of the parks, the tiger may become a direct heart. Somehow, someone somewhere will provide you with a spe- income source for those left without a choice. For the poor, destitute cial experience that will remain with you forever. and uneducated, the poachers’ money is welcome as they as yet have no perception of being custodians of the tiger and other wildlife – their aspiration is just to survive. Sadly, the demand for tiger skins Aline Dobbie is a travel writer specialising in India, and author of and tiger parts in the Chinese and Vietnamese markets remains high, Quicklook at India globalfourth quarter 2012 www.global-briefing.org l17


Global issue 12
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