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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query tourism. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query tourism. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Promoting Peace Through Tourism: Role of Cooperatives

By Sanjay Kumar Verma

India Marching Ahead
In the recent years India has emerged as a major global power. India's economic reforms have made the Indian economy as vibrant as ever. A conducive climate for foreign investment has been created. Indian democracy despite its contradictions has given the nation political stability which has no doubt strengthened the country's developmental plank. However, despite all this India has been straggling with peace as the problems of poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, social inequalities, insurgency, etc. continue to plague the nation. The strategies formulated to tackle these problems have not paid full dividends. Tourism as an effective strategy to promote peace has not been discussed or debated despite tourism sector remaining in prominence in the recent years.

Boost to Tourism
The economic liberalization in India has given a big push to Indian tourism. Tourism is today projected as an engine of economic growth and an instrument for eliminating poverty, curbing unemployment problems, opening up new fields of activity and the upliftment of downtrodden sections of society. New opportunities are being tapped to promote eco, adventure, rural, postage, wildlife and health and herbal including medical tourism. With the increasing number of foreign tourists coming to India every year and domestic tourism gaining popularity, public and private sector bodies are actively involved in promoting tourism in the country.

The international and regional dimensions of tourism are also getting due recognition. For example, travel links leading to establishing people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan are given prime importance. As a result of this, tourism has been instrumental in softening the relations between India and Pakistan leading to peace.

Peace Through Tourism
At a time when tourism initiatives have gained momentum in India, the situation is ripe for popularizing the concept of "Peace Through Tourism" in a big way through strong advocacy and practical action. Tourism as a strategy to promote peace by solving the problems of poverty, unemployment, etc. can succeed if effective inter-linkages are established between "tourism initiatives" and "peace", and appropriate action plans are devised accordingly. India has strong community and democratic ethos. Community-based initiatives based on people's participation have been quite effective in India in solving the socio-economic problems of the people.

They have also been successful in building up strong collaborations based on people's efforts which have led to creation of a peaceful and cordial atmosphere. In fact, the peaceful under-currents of Indian democracy are evident in the working of community-based ventures. Limitations of the centralized form of planning have compelled the policy-makers to pin their faiths on such people-based ventures. The paper argues that if the tourism strategies are geared towards involving the community-based organizations, they can promote peace in a real way.

Cooperatives and Peace
Cooperation means living, thinking and working together. It is working together to learn to live in our society peacefully and harmoniously. A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common, economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

In an age of declining values, peace can remain elusive if the values are not well propagated and communicated to the society at large. No doubt, in this scenario the value-based organizations have an important role to play in peace-building. The cooperatives have a strategic advantage over other organizations in this respect. The principles and values of cooperatives are the best guidelines to create a sustainable and peaceful world. They are intended to safeguard the human rights and enable the members to practice democracy and enjoy freedom of action. Cooperatives are the organizations which have strong community roots. They are embedded within the communities in which they exist. They work for sustainable development of communities through emphasis on values which create a peaceful atmosphere within the community.

Cooperative Contribution to Peace : An Indian Perspective
760 million people around the world are members of cooperatives. In Kenya 20% of the population is a member of cooperative, while in Argentina it is over 29%, 33% in Norway, 40% in Canada and US. The contribution of cooperatives to poverty alleviation can be gauged from the fact that they provide 100 million jobs and in some countries and areas are among the largest employees as in Columbia where a national health cooperatives is the largest employer at national level.

Worldwide the cooperative movement has contributed to peace by helping eliminate poverty, sustain environment, provide employment, and enrich social standards of the people. The value-based orientation of the cooperative movement has played a crucial role in checking the capitalist tendencies in the society by creating an equalitarian society through which chances of conflict are minimized.

In India the cooperative concept has worked wonders. Starting in 1904, the cooperative movement has made rapid strides in all areas of socio-economic activities. Today, there are more than 5 lakh cooperative societies in the country with a membership of 23 crores and working capital of Rs. 198.542 million. IFFCO and KRIBHCO are two cooperative fertilizer giants which have matched global standards of performance. The cooperative credit institutions are disbursing 46.15% of agricultural credit and cooperatives are distributing 36.22% of total fertilizers in the country. Dairy cooperatives in India with their strong and extensive network have excelled in their areas of operations. They have ushered in milk revolution in the country. India is the largest producer of milk in the world. The housing cooperatives in India have not only reaped economic reforms, but have also contributed to peace through promoting social harmony and community living.

The cooperatives in India have played a pioneering role in saving the poor from clutches of moneylenders by providing them credit at reasonable rate of interest so that they may start economic activities through a long chain of credit cooperatives set up at various levels. Besides, the cooperatives have convinced the poor that they are the institutions for their welfare, not exploitation. In the recent years the Self Help Groups based on cooperative principles have mushroomed in large numbers which have mobilized the rural poor by providing them avenues of income generation.

In India the cooperatives have played an important role in employment generation. About 15.47 million individuals are employed in the cooperative sector and the number of persons who are self-employed in the cooperatives are more than 14.39 million. The cooperatives have shown their strength in social sector too. For example, the sugar cooperatives in Maharashtra have come up in the field of education and health. In the field of environment, the cooperatives have played an important role in environment preservation. IFFCO, has played a laudable role in protecting environment through pollution control measures through its plants and farm forestry cooperatives.

Cooperatives and Tourism
Considering the contribution of cooperatives to peace and the value-based peaceful orientation of cooperatives, it is natural that the cooperatives are well positioned to strengthen the agenda of tourism. Tourism spreads the message of peace. If tourism becomes a key agenda of all the nations, a peaceful world order is bound to emerge. The institutions like cooperatives can play an important role in peace building if they are involved in tourism. In India tourism policy shift towards promoting decentralized form of tourism in which there is participation of all sections of the society is clearly visible. Though instances of cooperatives involved in tourism are negligible, the Indian cooperatives have strong potentialities to emerge as a lead player in the field of tourism.

Cooptour, a cooperative organization of 55 members, is involved in mainly ticketing and outgoing tourism. Besides the business and support from cooperative organizations, its professional services has led to increasing business with non-cooperative organizations. Cooptour feels that it has tremendous opportunities of growth in the areas of international cooperative tour packages, transport, rural tourism, etc. if there is full support from national and international cooperative organization.

The government has identified Rural Tourism as one of the thrust areas. The strength of rural tourism lies in the villages, and the cooperatives field 100% of the villages. A large chunk of foreign tourists have a high level of involvement in whatever they do about rural tourism as they want to participate in cultural affairs, traditional lifestyle, etc. The cooperatives in the rural areas in India have strong cultural affiliations. The cooperatives can not only acquaint the foreign tourists with rich culture of the region, but they can also understand their urge to participate in and experience the local culture closely.

The cooperatives can play a big role in strengthening international bonds of cultural heritage by making the tourists feel that they are a part of cooperative culture which is built on peace. Formation of tourism cooperatives for guiding, escorting, maintain local handicrafts, etc., can generate jobs, and end their poverty. In India the primary agriculture cooperatives are the strength of the cooperative system in the rural areas. They can promote rural tourism directly. Their contribution in poverty alleviation along with their emphasis on rural tourism as a potential area of development can be important in promoting peace.

The Indian Government is already sensitized on the importance of rural tourism, and the need for involving community based organizations in this field. The UNDP-Ministry of Tourism Project which has been started in India talks about strong community-private and public sector partnership for giving a boost to rural tourism. The Government has decided to develop necessary infrastructure for promoting rural tourism and has identified 31 villages to be developed as tourist spots. UNDP is helping in areas of capacity building, involvement of NGOs, local communities and artisans, etc. There is a dominant view that cooperatives and NGOs are the best agencies to promote rural tourism. Uttaranchal is a top tourist state in India. The Government is involved in formulating effective tourism strategies to promote tourism in the state.

Uttaranchal Government has launched Community based. Tourism in which certain number of villages/clusters are developed for attracting foreign tourists. Development of environment friendly tourism development is a focal area of tourism policies in Uttaranchal in which cooperative societies of rag pickers are formed so that the environment is not affected. Similarly, tourism leading to self-employment ventures is also noticeable in Uttaranchal. Self employment scheme in which the focus of project is on setting up PCOs, small hotels, is being implemented. The large number of beneficiaries benefiting from the scheme is a symbol of its popularity.

Infrastructure is the biggest stumbling factor in development of tourism. The cooperatives which have stronghold over the rural areas in the recent years have taken initiatives to promote infrastructure development. For example, the dairy cooperatives in Gujarat have built up the roads, and have come up with schools. The areas in which cooperatives are strong in infrastructure can be developed for formulating effective tourism strategies. The Government is willing to support the cooperatives who desire to come up in the field of tourism by providing them assistance in infrastructural development.

Ethical Tourism
Cooperatives by practicing ethical tourism can promote peace and justice in a big way. In India insurgency has been an age-old problem. For example, Jammu and Kashmir has struggled with terrorism for a long time. In this respect, an example of Manchester based workers cooperative practicing ethical tourism is worth mentioning. Olive Cooperative (www.olivecoop.com), a small workers cooperative in Manchester has been achieve on organizing 'solidarity' tours to Israel and West Bank to meet Palestinians and Israelis working at the front-line for peace and justice, in their communities and with national and international organizations.

This has useful pointers for India where workers' cooperatives can be formed to promote ethical tourism. Even in the areas which are effected by natural disasters, ethical tourism, can be an effective instrument to promote peace. For example, in the Tsunami hit areas in South India, need was feet for community based organizations to spread the message of peace. The cooperative in the India due to their effective community inter-linkages can promote ethical tourism in the conflict ridden zones. National Cooperative Union of India along with International Cooperative Alliance are already involved in rehabilitation work in the tsunami hit areas.

Cooperative Diversification and Tourism
A review of the cooperative trends in the recent times indicate that cooperatives are aware to diversity in new areas like tourism. The India tribal life is rich in cultural tradition. Tribal life and tribal products can emerge as focal areas in tourism. Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India is the national level organization of tribal cooperatives in the country. It has already identified certain regions for promoting tourism. The organization stands for holistic development of the tribal sector in all aspects and in this regard tourism is considered an important component. TRIFED is planning to start Tribes shops in all the major international airports so that all the traditional and ethnic tribal products are showcased for foreign tourists.

The example of TRIFED clearly indicates that cooperative sector is aware of the need for marketing its products from a tourism point of view. UHP milk powder is already distributed in all the pilgrimage tourist sites. The cooperative products have developed strong brands which clearly indicate that cooperative principles and values can be used for effective business. For example "Amul", brand of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation is a household name in India signifying milk revolution. The cooperative products spread the message of peace.

Successful Model of Cooperative Diversification in Tourism
Eco tourism is a dominant plank of tourism strategies of any country. India is no exception. Tourism initiatives providing eco friendly clean environment with emphasis on sustainable development promote peace. A successful example of a cooperative in India venturing in tourism mentioned here symbolizes this trend very well. Medially Fishermen's Cooperative Society (MFCS) in Calcutta is a successful fishery cooperative which has successful utilized waste water to produce fish.

It has a membership of 100 fishermen and around 300 families of fishermen are dependent on the society. The genesis of the cooperative can be traced when fishermen in Anta village of Howah had to migrate to wastelands near Kolkatta Dock in search of jobs due to drying up of Damodar River. By using the urban refuge and polluted water of the city, the society now undertakes these activities :

- Improving waste water quality

- Using waste water to produce fish, marketing fish, etc.

- Providing credit facilities to fishermen, engaged in poultry, piggery, dairy and cottage industries

The society has now ventured into developing a Nature Park which has now emerged as a hot tourist spot in the city where pollution is a big problem. The Park has attractive boating facilities and an ecosystem has been created that attracts many birds. The animal Park is another attraction having deer, rabbits, tortoise different kinds of ducks, etc.

The society has adopted professional norms in functioning by indulging in multifarious activities. The production of fish by the society has been soaring high. The example of this society indicates that cooperatives involved in preserving environment can venture into tourism activities by diversifying their operations. Commercialization of tourism may lead to neglect of ecology as economic considerations for developing a tourist site may lead to neglect of social aspects, like environment. In this scenario forming a cooperative to promote eco tourism can be highly successful.

The tourism scenario in India is ideal for formulating effective tourism strategies for promoting peace. Amongst the tourism strategies for promoting peace, the cooperative strategy merits consideration. The Indian cooperative movement which is the largest movement in the world is best suited for promoting peace through tourism. National Cooperative Union of India is the apex organization of the cooperative movement in the country. 196 cooperative organizations at all levels are as its members. Being a promotional organization with emphasis on training, education, advocacy, research, publication, NCUI has worked hard to promote the cooperative movement in the country.

It has always formulated effective policies to promote cooperative diversification. For example, due to strong champing of NCUI, the cooperatives were recently allowed entry into insurance. The NCUI has also taken initiatives in the new fields of insurance, electrification environment, etc. IFFCO, a major cooperative fertilizer giant, has already made effective forays in the fields of insurance, electrification etc.

The NCUI has effectively popularized the concept of cooperation amongst the rural population by its Cooperative Education Field Projects located all over the country. NCUI is in a good position to promote rural tourism in the country. Taking into account the strength of Indian cooperatives in promoting peace through tourism, the international tourism bodies like IIPT, WTO, etc. must think of forging collaborations with Indian cooperatives in the field of tourism.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Promoting Peace Through Tourism: Role of Cooperatives

By Sanjay Kumar Verma

India Marching Ahead
In the recent years India has emerged as a major global power. India's economic reforms have made the Indian economy as vibrant as ever. A conducive climate for foreign investment has been created. Indian democracy despite its contradictions has given the nation political stability which has no doubt strengthened the country's developmental plank. However, despite all this India has been straggling with peace as the problems of poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, social inequalities, insurgency, etc. continue to plague the nation. The strategies formulated to tackle these problems have not paid full dividends. Tourism as an effective strategy to promote peace has not been discussed or debated despite tourism sector remaining in prominence in the recent years.

Boost to Tourism
The economic liberalization in India has given a big push to Indian tourism. Tourism is today projected as an engine of economic growth and an instrument for eliminating poverty, curbing unemployment problems, opening up new fields of activity and the upliftment of downtrodden sections of society. New opportunities are being tapped to promote eco, adventure, rural, postage, wildlife and health and herbal including medical tourism. With the increasing number of foreign tourists coming to India every year and domestic tourism gaining popularity, public and private sector bodies are actively involved in promoting tourism in the country. The international and regional dimensions of tourism are also getting due recognition. For example, travel links leading to establishing people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan are given prime importance. As a result of this, tourism has been instrumental in softening the relations between India and Pakistan leading to peace.

Peace Through Tourism
At a time when tourism initiatives have gained momentum in India, the situation is ripe for popularizing the concept of "Peace Through Tourism" in a big way through strong advocacy and practical action. Tourism as a strategy to promote peace by solving the problems of poverty, unemployment, etc. can succeed if effective inter-linkages are established between "tourism initiatives" and "peace", and appropriate action plans are devised accordingly. India has strong community and democratic ethos. Community-based initiatives based on people's participation have been quite effective in India in solving the socio-economic problems of the people. They have also been successful in building up strong collaborations based on people's efforts which have led to creation of a peaceful and cordial atmosphere. In fact, the peaceful under-currents of Indian democracy are evident in the working of community-based ventures. Limitations of the centralized form of planning have compelled the policy-makers to pin their faiths on such people-based ventures. The paper argues that if the tourism strategies are geared towards involving the community-based organizations, they can promote peace in a real way.

Cooperatives and Peace
Cooperation means living, thinking and working together. It is working together to learn to live in our society peacefully and harmoniously. A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common, economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

In an age of declining values, peace can remain elusive if the values are not well propagated and communicated to the society at large. No doubt, in this scenario the value-based organizations have an important role to play in peace-building. The cooperatives have a strategic advantage over other organizations in this respect. The principles and values of cooperatives are the best guidelines to create a sustainable and peaceful world. They are intended to safeguard the human rights and enable the members to practice democracy and enjoy freedom of action. Cooperatives are the organizations which have strong community roots. They are embedded within the communities in which they exist. They work for sustainable development of communities through emphasis on values which create a peaceful atmosphere within the community.

Cooperative Contribution to Peace : An Indian Perspective
760 million people around the world are members of cooperatives. In Kenya 20% of the population is a member of cooperative, while in Argentina it is over 29%, 33% in Norway, 40% in Canada and US. The contribution of cooperatives to poverty alleviation can be gauged from the fact that they provide 100 million jobs and in some countries and areas are among the largest employees as in Columbia where a national health cooperatives is the largest employer at national level.

Worldwide the cooperative movement has contributed to peace by helping eliminate poverty, sustain environment, provide employment, and enrich social standards of the people. The value-based orientation of the cooperative movement has played a crucial role in checking the capitalist tendencies in the society by creating an equalitarian society through which chances of conflict are minimized.

In India the cooperative concept has worked wonders. Starting in 1904, the cooperative movement has made rapid strides in all areas of socio-economic activities. Today, there are more than 5 lakh cooperative societies in the country with a membership of 23 crores and working capital of Rs. 198.542 million. IFFCO and KRIBHCO are two cooperative fertilizer giants which have matched global standards of performance. The cooperative credit institutions are disbursing 46.15% of agricultural credit and cooperatives are distributing 36.22% of total fertilizers in the country. Dairy cooperatives in India with their strong and extensive network have excelled in their areas of operations. They have ushered in milk revolution in the country. India is the largest producer of milk in the world. The housing cooperatives in India have not only reaped economic reforms, but have also contributed to peace through promoting social harmony and community living.

The cooperatives in India have played a pioneering role in saving the poor from clutches of moneylenders by providing them credit at reasonable rate of interest so that they may start economic activities through a long chain of credit cooperatives set up at various levels. Besides, the cooperatives have convinced the poor that they are the institutions for their welfare, not exploitation. In the recent years the Self Help Groups based on cooperative principles have mushroomed in large numbers which have mobilized the rural poor by providing them avenues of income generation.

In India the cooperatives have played an important role in employment generation. About 15.47 million individuals are employed in the cooperative sector and the number of persons who are self-employed in the cooperatives are more than 14.39 million. The cooperatives have shown their strength in social sector too. For example, the sugar cooperatives in Maharashtra have come up in the field of education and health. In the field of environment, the cooperatives have played an important role in environment preservation. IFFCO, has played a laudable role in protecting environment through pollution control measures through its plants and farm forestry cooperatives.

Cooperatives and Tourism
Considering the contribution of cooperatives to peace and the value-based peaceful orientation of cooperatives, it is natural that the cooperatives are well positioned to strengthen the agenda of tourism. Tourism spreads the message of peace. If tourism becomes a key agenda of all the nations, a peaceful world order is bound to emerge. The institutions like cooperatives can play an important role in peace building if they are involved in tourism. In India tourism policy shift towards promoting decentralized form of tourism in which there is participation of all sections of the society is clearly visible. Though instances of cooperatives involved in tourism are negligible, the Indian cooperatives have strong potentialities to emerge as a lead player in the field of tourism.

Cooptour, a cooperative organization of 55 members, is involved in mainly ticketing and outgoing tourism. Besides the business and support from cooperative organizations, its professional services has led to increasing business with non-cooperative organizations. Cooptour feels that it has tremendous opportunities of growth in the areas of international cooperative tour packages, transport, rural tourism, etc. if there is full support from national and international cooperative organization.

The government has identified Rural Tourism as one of the thrust areas. The strength of rural tourism lies in the villages, and the cooperatives field 100% of the villages. A large chunk of foreign tourists have a high level of involvement in whatever they do about rural tourism as they want to participate in cultural affairs, traditional lifestyle, etc. The cooperatives in the rural areas in India have strong cultural affiliations. The cooperatives can not only acquaint the foreign tourists with rich culture of the region, but they can also understand their urge to participate in and experience the local culture closely.

The cooperatives can play a big role in strengthening international bonds of cultural heritage by making the tourists feel that they are a part of cooperative culture which is built on peace. Formation of tourism cooperatives for guiding, escorting, maintain local handicrafts, etc., can generate jobs, and end their poverty. In India the primary agriculture cooperatives are the strength of the cooperative system in the rural areas. They can promote rural tourism directly. Their contribution in poverty alleviation along with their emphasis on rural tourism as a potential area of development can be important in promoting peace.

The Indian Government is already sensitized on the importance of rural tourism, and the need for involving community based organizations in this field. The UNDP-Ministry of Tourism Project which has been started in India talks about strong community-private and public sector partnership for giving a boost to rural tourism. The Government has decided to develop necessary infrastructure for promoting rural tourism and has identified 31 villages to be developed as tourist spots. UNDP is helping in areas of capacity building, involvement of NGOs, local communities and artisans, etc. There is a dominant view that cooperatives and NGOs are the best agencies to promote rural tourism. Uttaranchal is a top tourist state in India. The Government is involved in formulating effective tourism strategies to promote tourism in the state.

Uttaranchal Government has launched Community based. Tourism in which certain number of villages/clusters are developed for attracting foreign tourists. Development of environment friendly tourism development is a focal area of tourism policies in Uttaranchal in which cooperative societies of rag pickers are formed so that the environment is not affected. Similarly, tourism leading to self-employment ventures is also noticeable in Uttaranchal. Self employment scheme in which the focus of project is on setting up PCOs, small hotels, is being implemented. The large number of beneficiaries benefiting from the scheme is a symbol of its popularity.

Infrastructure is the biggest stumbling factor in development of tourism. The cooperatives which have stronghold over the rural areas in the recent years have taken initiatives to promote infrastructure development. For example, the dairy cooperatives in Gujarat have built up the roads, and have come up with schools. The areas in which cooperatives are strong in infrastructure can be developed for formulating effective tourism strategies. The Government is willing to support the cooperatives who desire to come up in the field of tourism by providing them assistance in infrastructural development.

Ethical Tourism
Cooperatives by practicing ethical tourism can promote peace and justice in a big way. In India insurgency has been an age-old problem. For example, Jammu and Kashmir has struggled with terrorism for a long time.

In this respect, an example of Manchester based workers cooperative practicing ethical tourism is worth mentioning. Olive Cooperative (www.olivecoop.com), a small workers cooperative in Manchester has been achieve on organizing 'solidarity' tours to Israel and West Bank to meet Palestinians and Israelis working at the front-line for peace and justice, in their communities and with national and international organizations. This has useful pointers for India where workers' cooperatives can be formed to promote ethical tourism. Even in the areas which are effected by natural disasters, ethical tourism, can be an effective instrument to promote peace.

For example, in the Tsunami hit areas in South India, need was feet for community based organizations to spread the message of peace. The cooperative in the India due to their effective community inter-linkages can promote ethical tourism in the conflict ridden zones. National Cooperative Union of India along with International Cooperative Alliance are already involved in rehabilitation work in the tsunami hit areas.

Cooperative Diversification and Tourism
A review of the cooperative trends in the recent times indicate that cooperatives are aware to diversity in new areas like tourism. The India tribal life is rich in cultural tradition. Tribal life and tribal products can emerge as focal areas in tourism. Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India is the national level organization of tribal cooperatives in the country.

It has already identified certain regions for promoting tourism. The organization stands for holistic development of the tribal sector in all aspects and in this regard tourism is considered an important component. TRIFED is planning to start Tribes shops in all the major international airports so that all the traditional and ethnic tribal products are showcased for foreign tourists.

The example of TRIFED clearly indicates that cooperative sector is aware of the need for marketing its products from a tourism point of view. UHP milk powder is already distributed in all the pilgrimage tourist sites. The cooperative products have developed strong brands which clearly indicate that cooperative principles and values can be used for effective business. For example "Amul", brand of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation is a household name in India signifying milk revolution. The cooperative products spread the message of peace.

Successful Model of Cooperative Diversification in Tourism
Eco tourism is a dominant plank of tourism strategies of any country. India is no exception. Tourism initiatives providing eco friendly clean environment with emphasis on sustainable development promote peace. A successful example of a cooperative in India venturing in tourism mentioned here symbolizes this trend very well. Medially Fishermen's Cooperative Society (MFCS) in Calcutta is a successful fishery cooperative which has successful utilized waste water to produce fish.

It has a membership of 100 fishermen and around 300 families of fishermen are dependent on the society. The genesis of the cooperative can be traced when fishermen in Anta village of Howah had to migrate to wastelands near Kolkatta Dock in search of jobs due to drying up of Damodar River. By using the urban refuge and polluted water of the city, the society now undertakes these activities :

- Improving waste water quality

- Using waste water to produce fish, marketing fish, etc.

- Providing credit facilities to fishermen, engaged in poultry, piggery, dairy and cottage industries

The society has now ventured into developing a Nature Park which has now emerged as a hot tourist spot in the city where pollution is a big problem. The Park has attractive boating facilities and an ecosystem has been created that attracts many birds. The animal Park is another attraction having deer, rabbits, tortoise different kinds of ducks, etc.

The society has adopted professional norms in functioning by indulging in multifarious activities. The production of fish by the society has been soaring high. The example of this society indicates that cooperatives involved in preserving environment can venture into tourism activities by diversifying their operations. Commercialization of tourism may lead to neglect of ecology as economic considerations for developing a tourist site may lead to neglect of social aspects, like environment. In this scenario forming a cooperative to promote eco tourism can be highly successful.

Conclusion
The tourism scenario in India is ideal for formulating effective tourism strategies for promoting peace. Amongst the tourism strategies for promoting peace, the cooperative strategy merits consideration. The Indian cooperative movement which is the largest movement in the world is best suited for promoting peace through tourism. National Cooperative Union of India is the apex organization of the cooperative movement in the country. 196 cooperative organizations at all levels are as its members.

Being a promotional organization with emphasis on training, education, advocacy, research, publication, NCUI has worked hard to promote the cooperative movement in the country. It has always formulated effective policies to promote cooperative diversification. For example, due to strong champing of NCUI, the cooperatives were recently allowed entry into insurance. The NCUI has also taken initiatives in the new fields of insurance, electrification environment, etc. IFFCO, a major cooperative fertilizer giant, has already made effective forays in the fields of insurance, electrification etc.

The NCUI has effectively popularized the concept of cooperation amongst the rural population by its Cooperative Education Field Projects located all over the country. NCUI is in a good position to promote rural tourism in the country. Taking into account the strength of Indian cooperatives in promoting peace through tourism, the international tourism bodies like IIPT, WTO, etc. must think of forging collaborations with Indian cooperatives in the field of tourism.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

World Tourism Day – Challenges galore!

By Jayashankar VS

World Tourism Day (WTD) 2009 will be hosted in Ghana and underscore the value of diversity and authenticity of tourism in a globalizing world. These are among the outcomes of the 17th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly, 22-29 November, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

The focus on climate change and the broader development agenda coincides with UNWTO’s active support of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The 2008 theme ranks high on the UN System Agenda and coincides with the 7th MDG: Ensure environmental sustainability and the proclamation of 2008 as the International Year of Planet Earth which will extend to 2009.

The theme will contribute in putting forward the global campaign to implement the Davos Declaration (Climate Change and Tourism – Responding top Global Challenges). The Declaration builds on the tourism sector’s strong relationship with climate and its global social and economic value as well as its role in sustainable development.
The 2009 theme will celebrate tourism diversity and implement a campaign to highlight the importance of tourism and globalization. This will mark the 30th celebration of World Tourism Day, which will be hosted in Ghana.

This campaign will highlight tourism’s role dual as a catalyst for globalization on the one hand, and as an opportunity to reaffirm and preserve the identity at the destination level, on the other.

World Tourism Day & MDGs
The General Assembly also endorsed UNWTO’s appointment of its first Special Advisor on Women and Tourism. This year’s theme coincided with UN’s 3rd MDG: Promote gender equality and empower women. Following the WTD 2007 celebrations of women’s achievements in the tourism sector, Pakistani senator Mrs. Nilofar Bakhatiar will lead the evolution of activities outlined in the 2008-09 General Programme of work.
These range from a UNWTO – UNIFEM (UN Development Fund for Women) annual report on the state of Women in Tourism to fostering a network of activists, ambassadors and advocates to support the work of the UNWTO Special Advisor on Women in Tourism.
World Tourism Day is commemorated on 27 September each year and coincides with the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on 27 September 1970 and was designated as World Tourism Day by the UN General Assembly.

The first half of 2009 has been sordid thanks to the invasion of the recession, terrorism and new health concerns that have left many key industries across India and the rest of the world in a lurch. The ghosts of 2008 just refuse to die down and continue to haunt the world economies! While the global tourism industry and the Indian tourism industry in particular is no exception to this, experts see this as an opportunity in crisis.

The key lies in identifying the problems, fixing them and this is just the right time to do it! However, it will take a concerted effort by India, the winner of three awards of the United Nations World Tourism Organization including Asia’s favourite tourist destination in 2007, to see through this turmoil. All this makes the World Tourism Day on September 27 this year even more challenging and exciting like never before!

This is the time to clean up the system
Globally, the tourism ministries in many countries and in India are gearing up to do well out of this world economic calamity. These efforts assume significance as the global travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest industries, employing nearly 231 million people and generating over 10.4 per cent of world GDP. And according to the Ministry of Tourism in India, in 2007, 5 million tourists visited India and spent nearly $11.5 billion. The World Tourism Organisation 2020 vision estimates that around 5.08 million tourists will visit India by 2010 which is likely to touch 8.9 million by 2020.

India and China have so far been resilient during recession and the recent World Bank report has not only endorsed this but predicts a decent growth for the two Asian giants. Thus, as far as the tourism industry is concerned, India is well poised to cash in on the global recession only if it makes up its mind to roll up its sleeves and work around a host of domestic and international tourism related issues.

The international and domestic issues that affects tourism in India
A weaker American and European economies that are already stung by recession has a spiralling effect on the global corporate world which is on a cost-cutting spree. This means lesser business and personal travels to India. The country is also facing newer challenges in health scares like the Swine flu, racism scandals, and poor protection for foreigners in certain tourists’ locations, climatic changes, inadequate manpower and the monsoon failures.

Estimates have put that India would need at least 200,000 people to cater to the country’s growing tourism needs. Then there are the proverbial infrastructure problems like poor road connectivity, non-modernisation of airports, lack of world class food and accommodation facilities in hot tourism spots and the sluggish pace in identifying and developing tourist destinations and circuits. All these could have far-reaching impacts on the tourism industry in India.

Internally, India’s domestic tourism industry is on a boom. Literally a money spinner, the domestic tourism industry too faces similar issues and these will have to be sorted out simultaneously. Hence, it will take collaborative and focused efforts on the part of the Indian tourism ministry and other related ministries to tackle these issues and set up new standards.

Tackling the issues
Tourism is multi sectoral. It has to coordinate and work with other industries and ministries to remove bottlenecks in infrastructure, travel, health, food and accommodation and other facilities. The key is to offer a world class experience for tourists visiting India.

Creating a healthy environment, literally
On one hand, the medical tourism industry is on a roll. The country is witnessing a huge influx of tourists from all over the world for medical treatment purposes. This calls for steadying up the healthcare facilities and switching on the ‘always on the ready’ mode in terms of modernisation of equipments and qualified manpower. The invasion of new health scares like the recent H1N1 scare could make a dent on the tourists’ visiting the country. These health scares will have its impact on the domestic tourism scenario as well. The health ministry will have to roll out promising measures and work with the public in creating a safer, healthier atmosphere for all tourists visiting India.

Infrastructure woes
Presently, the thrust remains on the construction, maintenance, and development of roads, rails and airways that connect the various tourist destinations in the country. For this the Ministry of Tourism has to coordinate with the ministry of road transport and highways, the civil aviation and the railway ministry. The source of funds for these all-important development activities could also come from the various IPOs. However, this could happen only when the present rule of not allowing banks in India to accept deposits beyond 10 years is relaxed. The finance for infrastructure is a long term plan and runs for 15-20 years. Hence only if banks are allowed to have long-term funds, this mismatch could be removed.

Development of world class hotels
Accommodation continues to be the central plank of the development strategy of tourism in India. This is an area where the Government will have to spruce up its coordination with not only the states and union territories but also with private players. Tourists from foreign countries not only will expect safety and world class facilities in the hotels they stay but also close proximity to the tourists’ hotspots. Hence, there is an increasing need to identify, set up and maintain world class accommodation facilities near the heritage sites, and other tourists’ destinations in the country.

On the food front, though it is a fact that tourists’ visiting India loves the spicy Indian food, the lack of stringent food laws and restrictions, however, remains an issue. In addition to the variety, there has to be quality and safety too in the food offered.

Research, plan, and perform!
Tourism is not just about visiting a country. A tourist may visit a country for various reasons. For example, many tourists from different parts of the world see India as a hub of medical tourism. So is the adventure tourism sector which offers mountaineering, skiing, ice skating, paragliding, and rock climbing opportunities in some of the country’s finest landscapes, seas and ice capped mountains. Further cruise tourism which is very popular in the Caribbean, Latin America and some South-east Asian countries is gaining foothold in India’s vast coastlines and unexplored jungles and destinations.

Rural tourism, eco-tourism are also good potentials for India’s tourism sector. It is high time the Ministry of Tourism focuses more on eco-tourism as it will serve as an educative tool for domestic and foreign tourists in observing wildlife, learning about the environment and understanding and conservation of the environment. Hence, understanding and solving these issues becomes all the more important. For this, the country needs well chalked out plans, funds from different sources, adequate manpower, and updated technology, round the clock concerted coordination between the various ministries and private players and above all the urge to make India the most favoured tourist destination in the country.

The World Travel & Tourism Council declares that the World Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values. And India, being an important member of the global tourism industry, has to make concerted efforts to understand, draft plans and ease the impact of the repercussions of the recent challenges in the social, cultural, political and economic spectrums.

This will not only prove to be an antidote for its own domestic tourism troubles and unemployment concerns but also set an example for the rest of the world. Only then the real meaning of Atithi Devo Bhava, the slogan for Incredible India, will serve its full purpose!

Friday, December 19, 2008

How To Bounce Back?

By Amitabh Kant

The tourism industry could convert crisis into opportunity

The economic downturn and the terror attacks in Mumbai have adversely impacted tourism. But in many ways tourism is an antidote to terrorism; tourism is a catalyst for employment creation, income redistribution and poverty alleviation. One of the best ways to fight the terrorists is to support India’s beleaguered tourism industry.

The Indian tourism industry will be resilient and bounce back as it did post-September 2001. The present crisis presents an opportunity. There was an even bigger crisis in Indian tourism in 2001-02. The attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, war in Afghanistan, withdrawal of flights, attack on Parliament House in New Delhi and troop mobilisation on the India-Pakistan border meant that Indian hotels had just 20-25 per cent occupancy. International tour operators had removed India from their sale brochures and inbound Indian tour operators had switched to outbound operations.

Then tourism was positioned as a major driver of India’s economic growth and its direct and multiplier effects were harnessed for employment generation, economic development and providing impetus to infrastructure development. At a time, when the national tourism boards of Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia had stopped their advertising, promotion and marketing budgets, the ‘Incredible India’ campaign was launched to bring back consumer demand, generate momentum and enhance growth in the tourism industry. This was also a period when the tourist infrastructure around Ajanta Ellora, Mahabalipuram, Kumbalgarh, Chittorgarh, the Buddhist circuit and at Humayun’s Tomb was improved.

The Indian tourism sector had been crippled by the limited air services, seat capacity and high ticket prices. Changes were ushered in this sector. It started with the permission to ASEAN carriers to operate to seven Indian metros, permitting low-cost carriers to launch operations, liberalisation of charter policy, the opening up of the UK bilaterals, granting approvals to new airlines and permitting private airlines to operate on international routes. One of the most closed sectors of the Indian economy was suddenly opened up and it unleashed huge growth in both India’s GDP and higher tourism flows.

This was also the time when young entrepreneurs launched travel portals. These changed the way Indians booked their travel. It is now projected that online channels would continue to outpace the total travel market and online penetration would be nearly one-fourth of the travel market by 2010. New products like medical tourism, value, cruise and rural tourism were conceptualised and implemented in partnership with the private sector and the community.

The 2008 economic slowdown and terror attacks require another such response. The terror attacks were restricted to Mumbai. Other regions and states such as Kerala, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal and UP remain safe, calm and normal.

Long haul markets still make for 95 per cent of India’s international traffic. There is a need to focus on China and Japan, which will emerge as the biggest source of tourists in the coming years. Kerala as a tourism destination was unheard of almost a decade back. Its emergence was largely on account of travel diversion from terror-prone Jammu & Kashmir. Kerala, of course, had developed new products like backwaters and Ayurveda, its entrepreneurs had created experiential boutique resorts and infrastructure had been spruced up. There is a need for new states to emerge as tourism destinations by enhancing the quality of experience and improving infrastructure. In fact, the next year should see focused attention on infrastructure deficiencies which have threatened to derail India’s aim to become a world-class global destination.

The imbalance in demand and supply of hotel rooms and a near-total absence of the two- to four-star category of hotels have led to escalating prices thereby reducing India’s price competitiveness. India needs to create an additional 1,50,000 rooms in the next three years to penetrate large volume markets like China. Domestic tourism can help balance both the present adversity and the seasonality of inbound tourism. The strategy necessitates creating awareness among the rising Indian middle classes about new experiences (chasing the monsoons), new attractions (plantation holidays) as well as pilgrim circuits, heritage and monuments.

To drive growth, we need to push five critical C’s: civic governance (improving the quality of tourism infrastructure),capacity building of service providers (taxi drivers, guides and immigration staff), communication strategy (constant innovation of the ‘Incredible India’ campaign and penetration in new markets), convergence of tourism with other sectors of the Indian economy, and civil aviation (continued opening of the skies, improved airport infrastructure and rationalisation of taxes).

In the context of India, the vast potential of tourism as an employment creator and wealth distributor still remains untapped. The size of the tourism industry worldwide is $4.6 trillion whereas the software industry globally is a mere $500 billion. The tourism industry globally generates over 250 million jobs whereas the software industry generates only 20 million jobs. In India, in 2007, revenue from foreign tourists was $10.7 billion and 53 million people were employed in the tourism sector.As India grows and expands its base in travel and tourism, it will generate many more jobs and the sector will become a major catalyst for India’s growth with employment creation.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Rural Tourism: It’s A Niche That India Can Offer

By M H Ahssan

Rural India has much to offer to the world. Rich in traditions of arts, crafts and culture, rural India can emerge as important tourist spots. Those in the developed world who have a craze for knowledge about traditional ways of life, arts and crafts will be attracted to visit rural India if the concept of rural tourism is marketed well.

It is not that the concept is not workable. In absence of any promotional activity for rural tourism, thousands of foreign tourists visit rural areas in Rajasthan, Gujarat and south India every year. This itself is the proof of viability of the concept of rural tourism.

The government, of late, has realised what the rural India can offer to the world. The Tenth Plan has identified tourism as one of the major sources for generating employment and promoting sustainable livelihoods. The Union ministry of tourism in collaboration with UNDP has launched the Endogenous Tourism Project linked to the existing rural tourism scheme of the government. The UNDP has committed $ 2.5 million for the project. UNDP will help in areas of capacity building, involvement of NGOs, local communities and artisans, forge strong community-private and public sector partnerships. The the government has decided to develop necessary infrastructure for facilitating rural tourism.

So far the government has identified 31 villages across the country as tourist spots. These are - Pochampalli in Nalgonda district and Srikalahasti in Chittor district in Andhra Pradesh, Durgapur in Golaghat district and Sualkuchi in Kamrup district in Assam, Nepura in Nalanda district in Bihar, Chitrakote and Nagarnar in Bastar district in Chhattisgarh, Hodka in Kachchh district in Gujarat, Jyotisar in Kurukshetra district in Haryana, Naggar in Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh, Banavasi in Uttar Kannada district in Karnataka, Aranmulla in Pathanamthitta district and Kumbalanghi in Kochi district in Kerala, Chaugan in Mandla district and Pranpur in Ashok Nagar district in Madhya Pradesh, Sulibhanjan-Khultabad in Aurangabad district in Maharashtra, Pipili and Raghurajpur in Puri district in Orissa, Rajasansi in Amritsar district in Punjab, Neemrana in Alwar district, Samode in Jaipur district and Haldighati in Rajsamand district in Rajasthan, Lachen in North District in Sikkim, Karaikudi in Sivaganga district and Kazhugumalai in Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu, Kamlasagar in West Tripura district in Tripura, Bhaguwala in Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh, Jageshwar in Almora district and Mana in Chamoli district in Uttaranchal, Ballabhpur Danga in Birbhum district and Mukutmanipur in Bankura district in West Bengal.

This does not mean that India has only 31 potential tourist spots in rural areas. There are many more. These spots have been selected on pilot basis keeping in view available infrastructure. There are many other spots of potential tourist interest where adequate infrastructure needs to be developed.

Some state have by their own initiatives have begun promoting rural tourism. For instance the forest department of the Uttaranchal government has set up ‘Centre for Ecotourism and Sustainable Livelihoods’. This centre aims at capacity building of local communities and promotion of rural tourism.

The pilot project on endogenous tourism is rightly conceived with the involvement of central and state governments and all stakeholders. Concerned district administration and the local NGOs are partners. The central government has pledged assistance to the states amounting to Rs 0.5 million for developing a site for rural tourism.

The project conceives to establish common facility centres for craft persons and village ‘Kala Kendras’ (arts & craft centres) to showcase the arts and crafts, history and culture, nature and heritage of the identified sites. The project will facilitate construction of ‘Vishram Sthals’ (rest houses for tourists). These ‘Vishram Sthals’ will be made using locally available materials and traditional skills and knowledge of building and construction. With a view to provide services of global standards, local communities will be trained in different aspects of hospitability, lodging and cuisine.

Tourism is one of the major earner of foreign exchange for the country. Rural tourism will definitely add more to what we earn in foreign exchange. Rural tourism will hasten the process of development and give a chance to the village folks to interact with the outside world. It will also boost employment opportunities in rural areas and the products of rural artisan will find a ready market.

India resides in village and for the world to know the real spirit of India, it is essential to have a peep into the rural areas. The government had earlier conceived of a Buddhist Tourism Circuit comprising of places of pilgrim interest. This project is in progress. Rural India has a lot to offer to the world!

Pochampally - a hub of rural tourism: Pochampally, a village in Andhra Pradesh is today renowned worldwide for its beautiful weaves. The world knows this quaint town for its spectacular Ikkats. Spread over a charming part of the Deccan plateau, Pochampally is the largest centre for Ikkat. Tucked amid the beautiful hills, this is a result of the Bhoodan movement by Acharya Vinoba Bhave(1951) wherein land was donated by the erstwhile zamindars towards community welfare. Hence the name 'Bhoodan Pochampally', which is in fact the first village to be created by this movement. The place has been declared a Model Village due to its cleanliness and civic amenities.

‘Rural Tourism Will Succeed With Local Community Participation’
Jose Dominic, chairman, CGH Earth Group of Hotels speaks to HNN about his expansion plans and the concept of rural tourism.

CGH Earth has properties in Kerala and is now venturing into Karnataka too. Which other states are you looking at?
Jose Dominic: We are planning a 16-room heritage hotel in Karaikudi in Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu. This will be our foray into Tamil Nadu. We have taken a Chettiyar palace in a village, which will be converted into a heritage property celebrating the Chettiyar culture, their cuisine and architecture. CGH Earth believes in rural tourism, which is more authentic, more experiential and less touristic. When I say less touristic, I mean, nothing is made for the tourist. Whatever is perceived to be a tourist’s demand or need, be it architecture, food or lifestyle, is negated from the rural tourism concept. It is totally self-sufficient with the rural resources, its ideas and its character. We are also looking at Thanjavur and Madurai for expansion in Tamil Nadu.

What are your expansion strategies and investment plans?
Our strategy is to have about 12 properties in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala in the next 2-3 years. Most of them will be small properties with about 16-20 rooms. The investment towards our Karaikudi property would be about Rs 3.5 crore. For the upcoming projects, the scale could be different. A property could also cost about Rs 10-15 crore. We are in discussions with private equity funds and if it materialises, the scale will go up.

What about Andhra Pradesh?
I am yet to study the Andhra Pradesh market. If we go for a property in the state, it would definitely be near the coastline.

CGH Earth has been following the rural tourism path. What makes this segment unique?
The concept of rural tourism is not about escaping but that of fulfillment. Rural tourism has to be in small numbers because rural infrastructure cannot handle large numbers, which will end up in ruining the character of the place. The main factor for the success of rural tourism is the complete involvement of the local community. Until and unless there is total participation by the rural community along with their strong acceptance, the concept cannot survive. The entire concept has to reflect the local ethos and this is the unique bit of rural tourism.

What could be the estimated size of rural tourism in the country?
If one takes the pure leisure component leaving the MICE, VFR or business travel, then I feel, the rural tourism comprises about 60% of travellers.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Special Report: India's Tourism Policy Ridden With Loopholes, Falls Short Of Global Standards

The last National Tourism Policy came 13 years ago. The new draft is being pushed out in barely two weeks.

The Union government is increasingly bulldozing through policies and bills in a tearing hurry. The latest, following on the heels of the child labour and juvenile justice bills, is the National Tourism Policy.

The Union tourism ministry put up a draft of the policy on its website on April 30 and gave the general public only 10 days to respond.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

India Rolls Out Red Carpet for Tourists

By Neeta Lal

If you've been planning to visit India - whether to soak up Goa's splendiferous sands or ogle the Taj Mahal - now's a good time to pack your bags. Hotel tariffs have plummeted by a whopping 30%, the Indian government has unleashed a raft of tourist-friendly sops and travel agents and airlines are offering great bargains.

With the portentous mix of a global economic slowdown and terror attacks eroding the growth of tourist arrivals in India, tourism has taken a beating. The Mumbai terror attacks on November 26, industry experts rue, have ruined the tourism season just as it was unfurling. As a result, compared to the 30% growth in the sector in 2007 - and double-digit growth for the past five years - the country is expected to post a tourist arrival increase of zilch this year.

This is a contrast from 2007, during which India witnessed a record number of visitors from abroad and a sharp rise in foreign exchange earnings through tourism. The number of foreign tourists in India touched a record 5 million in 2007, an increase of 12% from 2006. The estimated tourism earnings in 2007 were US$11.96 billion, compared to $8.93 billion in 2006.

This year, even till August, things weren't actually so bad. Foreign arrivals had increased 10.4% compared with the corresponding period last year. The foreign exchange earnings during the same period rose 21.5%. Buoyed with this growth, the industry had set itself an ambitious target to more than double the number of arrivals to 10 million by 2010, when New Delhi will host the Commonwealth Games.

But all this looks unachievable now due to a combination of factors, including a plunge in the number of arrivals for the first time in six years by 2.1% in November, traditionally regarded as the beginning of the high season. The number of visitors in November nose-dived from 532,000 in 2007 to 521,000, while the corresponding foreign exchange earnings from visitors dipped by 12.5% to $1 billion.

To make matters worse, in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, almost 50% of bulk bookings by visitors (largely from Britain, Europe and the US) were cancelled. Travel advisories issued by the US, Britain, Australia, Canada and Singapore advising against travel to India did nothing to help things. According to Himmat Anand, co-chair of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry's tourism committee, along with corporate bookings which usually plunge at this time, no fresh bookings have been forthcoming. "India has suddenly disappeared from overseas tourists' itineraries this year," he said.

What has further aggravated the situation is that on account of a record tourist turnout last year, operators had invested heavily in infrastructure upgrades and renovations which are now cumulatively adding to their losses. "This has been one of the worst times for Indian tourism in recent history," said Anil Kalsi, chairman (northern region) of the Travel Agents Association of India.

With panic buttons buzzing everywhere, the Ministry of Tourism has been forced to take urgent steps to increase footfalls to the country. It is now working on a war footing with trade associations and airlines to push up visitor numbers through a slew of measures. The Ministry of Tourism has set up state-level committees comprised of representatives from trade associations and ministries to look into various aspects of tourism management. Tourism Minister Ambika Soni has also urged governments of various countries not to issue travel advisories against India, simultaneously sending out a message of reassurance to the world community that India is a "safe" destination.

To prevent the sector from plunging into further gloom, the Tourism Ministry is also working proactively with travel operators to revitalize inbound tourist traffic. As a part of the "promote India campaign", for instance, tour operators have been asked to pair hotel tariffs with airfares and offer attractive incentives to visitors. Those who visit India this year will be offered sops like discounted packages for rural tourism, adventure tourism and wellness tourism on their next visit. Tour operators are also offering to sponsor at least 1,000 tourism industry reps to take a free trip to India for discussions.

Meanwhile, the ministry is working out the modalities of giving visas to tourists on arrival to further encourage unencumbered travel to India. It is also fleshing out 22 new mega tourism destinations across the country at an outlay of 250 million rupees (US$5.1 million) to 1 billion rupees for each destination, to infuse novelty into visitors' itineraries. To give rural tourism a push, 130 more villages have been identified as templates to showcase India's heterogeneous culture. Financial support to tour operators promoting India in the international arena has also been ratcheted up.

The government would do well to fire on all cylinders, considering that after the Mumbai massacre group bookings to popular tourist destinations like Goa, Jaipur and Kerala have plummeted remarkably. "The meltdown mayhem coupled with Mumbai's terror attacks have severely impacted Indian tourism," said Subhash Goyal, erstwhile president of Indian Association of Tour Operators. "It has had a cascading effect down the hospitality chain - from travel agents to the airlines to car rental companies to the hotels."

Five-star hotel tariffs in Delhi have hit an all-time low. A room can now be had in the range of 8,000 rupees to 10,000 rupees, even though the same room fetched between 12,000 to 15,000 rupees last year. Ergo, to create demand, many hotels and resorts are offering a "Global Meltdown Tariff" which knocks off 30% off the normal fare.

However, despite a raft of measures taken by the government and the hospitality sector to rejuvenate inbound tourism, industry players are still a tad wary about the Christmas-New Year season, which accounts for the bulk of their annual business.

"Ironically, this is the time when trade is [usually] booming," said Prateek Ghai of Globe Travels, a New-Delhi based travel agency. "But this time, due to a combination of factors, things are looking far too bleak!"

Friday, March 21, 2014

Poll Tourism 2014: Travel Agents May Turn General 'Elections Drama' Into 'Tourist Attractions' In India

By Likha Veer | INNLIVE

EXCLUSIVE If elections are the biggest festival of democracy, it can also be turned into a tourist attraction, for festivals are manna for a globetrotter. And that is what a few travel and tour operators have done in India.

International tourists visiting India last December got a  peep into the conduct of Assembly polls with tourism specialists mooting the concept of 'election tourism'. As part of 'poll tourism', foreign tourists, who visited Gujarat at the time of elections, met prominent BJP and opposition Congress leaders in the state, interacted with them and developed a better understanding of how public representatives get elected in India.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nature Reserves Are Not for Tourism

By Proloy Bagchi

All over the world, countries are creating nature reserves as more and more land, with all that nature has to offer, is harnessed for industry, agriculture or plain urban expansion. The intention is to conserve a slice of nature with its native biodiversity and other special features so that these are not lost to humanity forever. While study and research are generally permitted, efforts are made, by and large, to keep them insulated from human impact. Tourism, therefore, in such reserves is mostly “no no”. Yet, authorities permit treks on trails, either natural or specially created, imposing, generally, a cap on the number of trekkers consistent with the reserve’s carrying capacity. The idea, as is obvious, is to allow nature to thrive in all its magnificence undisturbed by the destructive and deleterious influences of humans.

India, too, has reserves of various kinds – from biosphere reserves, wild life reserves, dedicated tiger reserves, protected areas to nature reserves – where nature was supposed to play out its, shall we say, symphony to the script. That did not quite happen mostly because of human interference. Not only human settlements happened to be located within the reserves, tourism, especially eco-tourism of our malefic kind, did not allow nature full and unrestricted play. Pressures of rising population within the reserves and without, as also rising incomes fostering inordinate increase in footfalls of the well-heeled and insensitive coupled with lax and ineffective enforcement mechanisms, prevented the state from acting up to the objectives of conservation. Abandoning its earlier policy of conservation, the Government of India fell for the temptation of easy lucre that rising numbers of visitors bring. The consequences that followed were inevitable. Natural ecosystems were ravaged. The tourism industry in India has seldom exhibited restraint or the gracious traits of “responsible tourism”. Thriving on numbers, it is constantly in pursuit of “mass tourism” unmindful of the threat it might pose to the very goose that lays the golden egg.

The state’s inability to care for nature reserves has so tightened the stranglehold of tourism that without spin-offs from it such reserves, seemingly, cannot be sustained. A ready example is the new Dumna nature reserve which is, reportedly, being developed near the central Indian town of Jabalpore primarily as a tourist spot. Spread over about 900-odd acres of forested land with a healthy population of wildlife the Dumna reserve constitutes the catchment for a lake by the name Khandari. The Jabalpore Municipal Corporation, the owners of the land, had wisely handed over the work of developing the reserve to the state Forest Department who have made provisions of fishing and have developed nature trails. What, however, seems to be highly disconcerting is that the state Tourism Development Corporation has been asked to construct an eatery, a children’s park and other facilities including parking on a two-acre plot right inside the reserve. The Tourism Corporation is surely happy to spread its tentacles at Jabalpore which is the staging post for the world famous Kanha Tiger Reserve. Keen on numbers and, necessarily of an invasive kind, one never knows how far into the forest the tourism development outfit insinuates itself.

Once again, as it would seem, tourism has jumped ahead of conservation in priority. Soon the nature’s tranquillity and quietude at Dumna will be traumatized and shaken up. The mellow music of nature will be drowned by the harsh noise of vehicles of the picnickers (with scant respect or curiosity about nature’s offerings) and the shrieks and screams of their children at play. The intrusive humans will smother the freedom of nature to be by itself and thrive.

This is not why nature reserves are created and this is not how they are maintained. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, defines nature reserves as a protected area of “importance for wildlife, flora, fauna or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research”. Nowhere tourism is given the pride of place in such ecologically important sites.

Even China, where mass tourism was virtually the rule in its extensive nature reserves, has now realised the benefits of proper upkeep of natural sites and sustainable tourism therein. As tourism in Sichuan, a province of diverse ecosystems and historical interests, grows, Chinese are restricting the numbers of tourists in accordance with its carrying capacity. “We want to put conservation first” seems to be the new watchword. The province’s Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve is a tourism hotspot which apart from being a World Heritage Site is also a World Biosphere Reserve. In 2006 two million people visited it and yet the number of visitors daily was not allowed to cross the imposed cap of 18000 and every effort is made to mitigate the impact of this sizable horde. A fleet of hop-on, hop-off bio-diesel buses shuttle the people around allowing them the freedom of walks on nature trails. Wardens and CCTVs infest the place. Tourist accommodations are kept away from the reserve and local people are encouraged to build guesthouses of traditional style to offer the visitor an exotic experience. Eco-tourism is nothing if it does not benefit the local community!

Chinese have learnt to conserve the environment the hard way. Over exploitation of their natural resources and break-neck pace of industrialization wrought havoc with their air, water and the forests and resulted in increasing desertification. There were popular protests against the general environmental devastation. Frightened by the peoples’ fury and nature’s violence they had to pull back and they did do so from the very edge. Having done so, they are going the whole hog to preserve their environment. And, as in all other spheres, they will do all that is necessary whatever that takes.

No such fear, however, is in evidence in India. Here it is “business as usual”. Climate change may already be upon us, our air may be foul, water contaminated and our forests may be shrinking but environmental conservation is yet to register on us as a necessity. As in everything else, things will happen if only there is that ever-elusive political will. The new Central Minister for Environment, Jairam Ramesh is the only semblance of hope. Laboring to crank up the rusty machinery, he is like the distant light at the end of the tunnel. One hopes the best for him. If he, for any reason, happens to fail, redemption will be unlikely.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Special Report: How Tourism Is Putting The World’s Poorest Places On The Map?

By NIKHIL ARORA | INNLIVE

Slum tourism is broadly rejected as morally dubious and voyeuristic. But we should take a second look.

Back in Victorian times, wealthier citizens could sometimes be found wandering among London’s poorer, informal neighbourhoods, distributing charity to the needy. “Slumming” – as it was called – was later dismissed as a morally dubious and voyeuristic pastime. Today, it’s making a comeback; wealthy Westerners are once more making forays into slums – and this time, they’re venturing right across the developing world.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tourism Must Counter Mumbai Aftermath

By Nitish Sengupta

At a time when Indian tourism, recognised as a major economic activity of our country, was already suffering from the Wall Street meltdown and the general recessionary trend all over the world, it has received yet another serious blow from the Mumbai attacks. I happened to be on a short holiday at a backwater resort in Kerala on November 26 when the news of the terror attacks broke and, almost simultaneously, the resort started receiving an avalanche of cancellation from overseas tourist groups. On enquiries from other resorts in God’s own country, I got similar reports. It was as if the entire West was backing out from visits to India. I was also told that insurance companies in the West had stopped providing insurance cover to visitors to India and that this has crippled the entire inbound tourist traffic.

It is difficult to see how our tourist industry can cope with this challenge. And yet, they must. There must be vigorous tourism promotion in the West. People must be told that India is a vast country — as big as the European continent, and that one localised terror attack in Mumbai, or even Delhi, should not have any impact on visitors coming to other parts of the country, such as the south, the east or the Himalayas. It is as ludicrous as people not visiting Stockholm on grounds of violence in Rome. Also, in a way, the Mumbai attacks must be viewed as a blessing in disguise. The Indian government has become alert as never before and a lot of strong police and administrative measures are in progress to make the future more secure. There is a fresh move to strengthen coastal vigil and hopefully, things will improve in the long run.

Authorities in India should send tourism promotion delegations to all countries where tourism traffic to India originates in significant volumes and reassure the tour operators and tourism agencies that things are improving in India and that they should not fear any further threat to the lives of their citizens visiting India. We should also take advantage of the fact that the world today stands united against terrorism as never before and that Pakistan has generally been identified by the entire world as the hub of international terrorism. The UN Security Council has also taken note of this and passed a resolution urging the Government of Pakistan to take deterrent action against the terror camps and terrorist organisations in their country.

But, tourism industry must also do a great deal of introspection. The time has come to ask questions as to why hotel rates are so high here, much higher than the average hotel rates in tourism-oriented countries. Air tickets too are much costlier here. With the money that is needed to buy an airline ticket from Delhi to Cochin, one can fly to Dubai, Singapore or Bangkok, spend two or three days there and come back. Just as the hotels should seriously consider lowering their rates to match those in tourist centres such as Singapore, Bangkok or Bali, the Indian government and airline companies should also put their heads together to ensure that airfares are brought down to the rates prevailing elsewhere. This necessarily means that the Central and state governments need to reduce the incidences of taxes levied on air travel which are prohibitively high and much more than what any other tourism-oriented country levies.

On the overall cost and benefit analysis, the government should not mind reducing taxes in the interest of getting a higher volume of travel and, to that extent, of forex earnings. Similarly, the hotel industry and the banks and financial institutions which have provided them loans, should sit together and consider reducing the volume of interest burden on the hospitality industry. If the repayment burden is spread over a longer period, as a special case, it shouldn’t be difficult to reduce the interest rates substantially. The same applies to tour operators and transporters. Bearing in mind that they are all faced with almost a war-like situation, it is time to make whatever adjustment is required to meet this adversity.

Finally, there is the issue of domestic tourism in relation to overall tourism in the country. Indians are not only great international travellers but also regular domestic travellers. But traditionally, domestic travel has been associated mostly with religious tourism and somewhat with cultural tourism. There has not been domestic holiday or leisure tourism on a large scale. Can we not persuade a large group of Indians to fill the vacuum created by the sudden disappearance of foreign visitors from, let us say, the Goa beaches, the backwaters resorts of Kerala or the Himalayan trekking camps?

This should be possible with a proper degree of promotion and the right amount of adjustment by hoteliers and travel agents. Once this happens, the Indian tourism industry will not miss overseas tourists. Domestic tourism can fill up the absence of the overseas tourists in all possible ways except that they cannot bring in forex. But in the general situation where India’s forex earning is going up on account of general economic activity, it will not matter much if this declines. In a situation where tourism has to compete with terrorism, there is no way out but to begin by facing these hard realities.

Tourism Must Counter Mumbai Aftermath

By Nitish Sengupta

At a time when Indian tourism, recognised as a major economic activity of our country, was already suffering from the Wall Street meltdown and the general recessionary trend all over the world, it has received yet another serious blow from the Mumbai attacks. I happened to be on a short holiday at a backwater resort in Kerala on November 26 when the news of the terror attacks broke and, almost simultaneously, the resort started receiving an avalanche of cancellation from overseas tourist groups. On enquiries from other resorts in God’s own country, I got similar reports. It was as if the entire West was backing out from visits to India. I was also told that insurance companies in the West had stopped providing insurance cover to visitors to India and that this has crippled the entire inbound tourist traffic.

It is difficult to see how our tourist industry can cope with this challenge. And yet, they must. There must be vigorous tourism promotion in the West. People must be told that India is a vast country — as big as the European continent, and that one localised terror attack in Mumbai, or even Delhi, should not have any impact on visitors coming to other parts of the country, such as the south, the east or the Himalayas. It is as ludicrous as people not visiting Stockholm on grounds of violence in Rome. Also, in a way, the Mumbai attacks must be viewed as a blessing in disguise. The Indian government has become alert as never before and a lot of strong police and administrative measures are in progress to make the future more secure. There is a fresh move to strengthen coastal vigil and hopefully, things will improve in the long run.

Authorities in India should send tourism promotion delegations to all countries where tourism traffic to India originates in significant volumes and reassure the tour operators and tourism agencies that things are improving in India and that they should not fear any further threat to the lives of their citizens visiting India. We should also take advantage of the fact that the world today stands united against terrorism as never before and that Pakistan has generally been identified by the entire world as the hub of international terrorism. The UN Security Council has also taken note of this and passed a resolution urging the Government of Pakistan to take deterrent action against the terror camps and terrorist organisations in their country.

But, tourism industry must also do a great deal of introspection. The time has come to ask questions as to why hotel rates are so high here, much higher than the average hotel rates in tourism-oriented countries. Air tickets too are much costlier here. With the money that is needed to buy an airline ticket from Delhi to Cochin, one can fly to Dubai, Singapore or Bangkok, spend two or three days there and come back. Just as the hotels should seriously consider lowering their rates to match those in tourist centres such as Singapore, Bangkok or Bali, the Indian government and airline companies should also put their heads together to ensure that airfares are brought down to the rates prevailing elsewhere. This necessarily means that the Central and state governments need to reduce the incidences of taxes levied on air travel which are prohibitively high and much more than what any other tourism-oriented country levies.

On the overall cost and benefit analysis, the government should not mind reducing taxes in the interest of getting a higher volume of travel and, to that extent, of forex earnings. Similarly, the hotel industry and the banks and financial institutions which have provided them loans, should sit together and consider reducing the volume of interest burden on the hospitality industry. If the repayment burden is spread over a longer period, as a special case, it shouldn’t be difficult to reduce the interest rates substantially. The same applies to tour operators and transporters. Bearing in mind that they are all faced with almost a war-like situation, it is time to make whatever adjustment is required to meet this adversity.

Finally, there is the issue of domestic tourism in relation to overall tourism in the country. Indians are not only great international travellers but also regular domestic travellers. But traditionally, domestic travel has been associated mostly with religious tourism and somewhat with cultural tourism. There has not been domestic holiday or leisure tourism on a large scale. Can we not persuade a large group of Indians to fill the vacuum created by the sudden disappearance of foreign visitors from, let us say, the Goa beaches, the backwaters resorts of Kerala or the Himalayan trekking camps?

This should be possible with a proper degree of promotion and the right amount of adjustment by hoteliers and travel agents. Once this happens, the Indian tourism industry will not miss overseas tourists. Domestic tourism can fill up the absence of the overseas tourists in all possible ways except that they cannot bring in forex. But in the general situation where India’s forex earning is going up on account of general economic activity, it will not matter much if this declines. In a situation where tourism has to compete with terrorism, there is no way out but to begin by facing these hard realities.

Tourism Must Counter Mumbai Aftermath

By Nitish Sengupta

At a time when Indian tourism, recognised as a major economic activity of our country, was already suffering from the Wall Street meltdown and the general recessionary trend all over the world, it has received yet another serious blow from the Mumbai attacks. I happened to be on a short holiday at a backwater resort in Kerala on November 26 when the news of the terror attacks broke and, almost simultaneously, the resort started receiving an avalanche of cancellation from overseas tourist groups. On enquiries from other resorts in God’s own country, I got similar reports. It was as if the entire West was backing out from visits to India. I was also told that insurance companies in the West had stopped providing insurance cover to visitors to India and that this has crippled the entire inbound tourist traffic.

It is difficult to see how our tourist industry can cope with this challenge. And yet, they must. There must be vigorous tourism promotion in the West. People must be told that India is a vast country — as big as the European continent, and that one localised terror attack in Mumbai, or even Delhi, should not have any impact on visitors coming to other parts of the country, such as the south, the east or the Himalayas. It is as ludicrous as people not visiting Stockholm on grounds of violence in Rome. Also, in a way, the Mumbai attacks must be viewed as a blessing in disguise. The Indian government has become alert as never before and a lot of strong police and administrative measures are in progress to make the future more secure. There is a fresh move to strengthen coastal vigil and hopefully, things will improve in the long run.

Authorities in India should send tourism promotion delegations to all countries where tourism traffic to India originates in significant volumes and reassure the tour operators and tourism agencies that things are improving in India and that they should not fear any further threat to the lives of their citizens visiting India. We should also take advantage of the fact that the world today stands united against terrorism as never before and that Pakistan has generally been identified by the entire world as the hub of international terrorism. The UN Security Council has also taken note of this and passed a resolution urging the Government of Pakistan to take deterrent action against the terror camps and terrorist organisations in their country.

But, tourism industry must also do a great deal of introspection. The time has come to ask questions as to why hotel rates are so high here, much higher than the average hotel rates in tourism-oriented countries. Air tickets too are much costlier here. With the money that is needed to buy an airline ticket from Delhi to Cochin, one can fly to Dubai, Singapore or Bangkok, spend two or three days there and come back. Just as the hotels should seriously consider lowering their rates to match those in tourist centres such as Singapore, Bangkok or Bali, the Indian government and airline companies should also put their heads together to ensure that airfares are brought down to the rates prevailing elsewhere. This necessarily means that the Central and state governments need to reduce the incidences of taxes levied on air travel which are prohibitively high and much more than what any other tourism-oriented country levies.

On the overall cost and benefit analysis, the government should not mind reducing taxes in the interest of getting a higher volume of travel and, to that extent, of forex earnings. Similarly, the hotel industry and the banks and financial institutions which have provided them loans, should sit together and consider reducing the volume of interest burden on the hospitality industry. If the repayment burden is spread over a longer period, as a special case, it shouldn’t be difficult to reduce the interest rates substantially. The same applies to tour operators and transporters. Bearing in mind that they are all faced with almost a war-like situation, it is time to make whatever adjustment is required to meet this adversity.

Finally, there is the issue of domestic tourism in relation to overall tourism in the country. Indians are not only great international travellers but also regular domestic travellers. But traditionally, domestic travel has been associated mostly with religious tourism and somewhat with cultural tourism. There has not been domestic holiday or leisure tourism on a large scale. Can we not persuade a large group of Indians to fill the vacuum created by the sudden disappearance of foreign visitors from, let us say, the Goa beaches, the backwaters resorts of Kerala or the Himalayan trekking camps?

This should be possible with a proper degree of promotion and the right amount of adjustment by hoteliers and travel agents. Once this happens, the Indian tourism industry will not miss overseas tourists. Domestic tourism can fill up the absence of the overseas tourists in all possible ways except that they cannot bring in forex. But in the general situation where India’s forex earning is going up on account of general economic activity, it will not matter much if this declines. In a situation where tourism has to compete with terrorism, there is no way out but to begin by facing these hard realities.

Tourism Must Counter Mumbai Aftermath

By Nitish Sengupta

At a time when Indian tourism, recognised as a major economic activity of our country, was already suffering from the Wall Street meltdown and the general recessionary trend all over the world, it has received yet another serious blow from the Mumbai attacks. I happened to be on a short holiday at a backwater resort in Kerala on November 26 when the news of the terror attacks broke and, almost simultaneously, the resort started receiving an avalanche of cancellation from overseas tourist groups. On enquiries from other resorts in God’s own country, I got similar reports. It was as if the entire West was backing out from visits to India. I was also told that insurance companies in the West had stopped providing insurance cover to visitors to India and that this has crippled the entire inbound tourist traffic.

It is difficult to see how our tourist industry can cope with this challenge. And yet, they must. There must be vigorous tourism promotion in the West. People must be told that India is a vast country — as big as the European continent, and that one localised terror attack in Mumbai, or even Delhi, should not have any impact on visitors coming to other parts of the country, such as the south, the east or the Himalayas. It is as ludicrous as people not visiting Stockholm on grounds of violence in Rome. Also, in a way, the Mumbai attacks must be viewed as a blessing in disguise. The Indian government has become alert as never before and a lot of strong police and administrative measures are in progress to make the future more secure. There is a fresh move to strengthen coastal vigil and hopefully, things will improve in the long run.

Authorities in India should send tourism promotion delegations to all countries where tourism traffic to India originates in significant volumes and reassure the tour operators and tourism agencies that things are improving in India and that they should not fear any further threat to the lives of their citizens visiting India. We should also take advantage of the fact that the world today stands united against terrorism as never before and that Pakistan has generally been identified by the entire world as the hub of international terrorism. The UN Security Council has also taken note of this and passed a resolution urging the Government of Pakistan to take deterrent action against the terror camps and terrorist organisations in their country.

But, tourism industry must also do a great deal of introspection. The time has come to ask questions as to why hotel rates are so high here, much higher than the average hotel rates in tourism-oriented countries. Air tickets too are much costlier here. With the money that is needed to buy an airline ticket from Delhi to Cochin, one can fly to Dubai, Singapore or Bangkok, spend two or three days there and come back. Just as the hotels should seriously consider lowering their rates to match those in tourist centres such as Singapore, Bangkok or Bali, the Indian government and airline companies should also put their heads together to ensure that airfares are brought down to the rates prevailing elsewhere. This necessarily means that the Central and state governments need to reduce the incidences of taxes levied on air travel which are prohibitively high and much more than what any other tourism-oriented country levies.

On the overall cost and benefit analysis, the government should not mind reducing taxes in the interest of getting a higher volume of travel and, to that extent, of forex earnings. Similarly, the hotel industry and the banks and financial institutions which have provided them loans, should sit together and consider reducing the volume of interest burden on the hospitality industry. If the repayment burden is spread over a longer period, as a special case, it shouldn’t be difficult to reduce the interest rates substantially. The same applies to tour operators and transporters. Bearing in mind that they are all faced with almost a war-like situation, it is time to make whatever adjustment is required to meet this adversity.

Finally, there is the issue of domestic tourism in relation to overall tourism in the country. Indians are not only great international travellers but also regular domestic travellers. But traditionally, domestic travel has been associated mostly with religious tourism and somewhat with cultural tourism. There has not been domestic holiday or leisure tourism on a large scale. Can we not persuade a large group of Indians to fill the vacuum created by the sudden disappearance of foreign visitors from, let us say, the Goa beaches, the backwaters resorts of Kerala or the Himalayan trekking camps?

This should be possible with a proper degree of promotion and the right amount of adjustment by hoteliers and travel agents. Once this happens, the Indian tourism industry will not miss overseas tourists. Domestic tourism can fill up the absence of the overseas tourists in all possible ways except that they cannot bring in forex. But in the general situation where India’s forex earning is going up on account of general economic activity, it will not matter much if this declines. In a situation where tourism has to compete with terrorism, there is no way out but to begin by facing these hard realities.