World Tourism Day, celebrated on 27 September of each year since 1980, will be observed this year under the theme of "Rethinking Tourism". The date marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Statutes of the Organisation in 1970, which later paved the way for establishing the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). This year the organisation claimed that tourism's relevance has never been much clearer than it is today and urged countries to seize the opportunity to rethink tourism.
Reviving The 'Incredible India'
'Incredible India' is a brand that the country has associated with for the longest time as the people understood the immense potential held by Indian culture and heritage on the tourism front. Being one of the oldest civilisations in the world, India comes along with a multicultural experience that has piqued global interest.
However, over time as Tourism and developmental projects took the front seat, the environment and indigenous elements were compromised to an extent. A multitude of projects started picking pace, with little to no mitigation measures and a need to rethink the approach towards tourism. This was further stressed during the pandemic period when the tourism industry was hard hit, but the environment witnessed a detox with lesser human activity.
Acknowledging the sector to be a crucial element for development, the need has risen to identify its ability as well as conduct it responsibly through positive and sustainable development.
Secretary general of UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, also shed light on the same and said, "Crisis has inspired and catalysed creativity. And the pandemic accelerated the transformation of work, bringing both challenges as well as enormous opportunities to ensure even more people get to benefit from tourism's restart."
Looking back at a few projects that gave a facelift to the industry in India, here's the other side of it that needs to be rethought.
Projects And Protests Continue To Take The Center Stage
Developmental projects inevitably come along with a certain level of damage impacted upon the surroundings. A sustainable project would, however, address this damage caused and parallelly create a mitigation provision to reduce the impact. This is among the major reasons why several activists and environmentalists reject developmental projects.
Few projects in recent times that have been lauded for the initiative but criticised for their approach include the arrival of Cheetahs in the Kuno National Park, the mega strategic project at the Andaman and Nicobar islands, tourism projects within the tribal villages of Andhra Pradesh, Namma Metro project at Bangalore, among many such similar cases.
While taking pride in the many historical achievements is essential, it should also nudge people into thinking from a sustainable and smarter angle to create opportunities within tourism without putting the vulnerable at stake.
This was a reminder put across through the fears citizens had during the Kuno National Park project. As per a report by the Business Standard, villagers in the surrounding areas of Madhya Pradesh's Sheopur district had a range of concerns in terms of land acquisition and man-wildlife conflict. Bringing in the animals from Namibia to revive the population that went extinct in India in 1952 required over 250 families and 25 villages to be relocated to create a larger inviolate area for the animal. Very little has been talked about in regard to this.
However, the livelihoods of people and environmental risks have not been entirely removed from the equation, as we have seen in the case of the mega project of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The project cleared out a large area of forests with rare flora and fauna, translocated hectares of coral covers, and would affect thousands of indigenous tribes in the region. As reported by the New Indian Express, this happens to be a zone that was declared a biosphere reserve in 1989 and was included in UNESCO's man and biosphere.
The area was cleared out to attract increased tourist footfall and was discussed actively along with organisations such as the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) to formulate effective mitigation measures. This has been taken in as a positive measure, through which the importance of biodiversity is not left within the tourism run.
Finding Inspiration Across Indigenous And International Spaces
While charting out a day to observe World Tourism Day, the UNWTO also made it a point to bring to light the many developmental projects that have been in line with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It conveys efforts taken by the many countries across the globe to initiate a tourism plan that is "greener, safer and smarter". Taking inspiration from these grounds can introduce newer lenses to look at development through and localise it.
At times, the sector would not even have to look farther away, as there are innumerable examples within the country itself. The recent works dedicated to declaring a village in Odisha as a "birds village" showcase how collaborative and conscious efforts can bring in positive impact.
The entire district of Govindpur came together with the Divisional Forest Officials to conserve the environment for the migratory birds and create a space for tourists to visit. An article by the New Indian Express reflected on how the initiative will soon be seen across multiple other villages near the natural park.
It would gradually build a sense of ownership towards sustainable projects within the tourism sector.
Also Read: Bargarh's Govindpur District To Be Odisha's First Ever 'Birds Village'