Tourism is an important economic activity in all over the World, as it not only gives direct contribution to economy, it has also significant linkages with several other sectors like agriculture, poultry, handicrafts, construction, transportation, entertainment etc. World over 761 million tourists travelled internationally in 2004 and spent US$ 500 billion. World Tourism Organisation reports indicate that tourism contributes 13% of World export and 8.2% global employment. For India also, tourism has become a big source of foreign exchange earnings, (last year tourism receipts were $4.3 billion from 3.6 million international arrivals. It contributes 5.8% in overall employment and 6.9 % in G.D.P. of our country. Recent surveys have shown tourism creates 47.5 jobs through each investment of Rs.10 lakhs which is much higher than the same investments made in Agriculture or manufacturing industry. Thus, tourism helps in improving the quality of life style and building of the nation.
Though the roles of tourism have been well accepted, the concept of "Eco-Tourism" is very recent and need proper understanding. In eco-tourism concept the emphasis is more on the " People" and "Natural Environment". It talks about the "Balance" to avoid the ill effects of tourism on the environment by "Overuse". It emphasizes on using the terrestrial, location, national features of sites viz., Beaches, Forts, Natural/Built Heritage, Lakes, Hills, i.e., tourism programmes with proper eye on preservation of various elements of ecological, cultural and wilderness, to integrate with the living of local people. The sustainable utilisation of natural resource sites and services and caring local living style should be the development strategy in tourism planning. Ill effects of 19th century's industrialization should be kept in mind, which brought environmental pollution, resource degradation and global environmental change and all these brought irreparable loss. Ill planned tourism can bring similar negative effects.
The basic objective of eco-tourism plan should be to achieve sustainable development of India's Natural, cultural and ancient heritage without causing any adverse effects on the same. Essentially the possible adverse effects on wetlands, conflicts with local sentiments and neglect of maintenance when exposed to public should not take away development agenda in wrong direction; rather eco tourism development should be harmonised with local population skills and products as well as livelihoods and enhance the value of natural as well as built environment which will make them worthy of conservation.
Local people to be stakeholders for better management. It is essential to forge public private partnership with a clear-cut demarcation of the responsibilities, commitments and right of all the parties involved in the development. However, local character of the sites to be kept in mind for any future development work. Thus, there will be the necessity of good documentation and mapping of the sites and their unique features as a
Pre-requisite. The projects are to be priortised with sincerity for plan implementation with allocation of funds.
This eco-tourism concept is the need of the hour. The concept also cares for air pollution, water pollution, sound pollution, soil pollution, waste disposal etc. for quality life style through regulated activities to save the environment.
The industry has to organise training programmes and borrow the knowledge from experts to deal with all these issues, regular monitor and measuring the impact will indicate Quality level of achievement to protect environmental degradation. Environment protection should be the organisational culture.
Author is the Regional Director, (Government of India, Ministry of Tourism), India tourism, Mumbai.