‘Responsible tourism possible only if inclusive growth is ensured’

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture Sitaram Yechury has warned against the unbridled expansion of tourism industry and cautioned the industry to learn from the catastrophic tragedy in Uttarakhand which was partially manmade.

Delivering the keynote address at an international conference on ‘Responsible Tourism’ organised by the Department of Tourism, Mr. Yechury pointed out that pilgrim tourism to the two shrines in Uttarakhand — Haridwar and Kedarnath — had witnessed a five-fold increase in a decade, while the number of registered vehicles, mostly used for ferrying the pilgrims, had seen a 70 per cent increase in the past two years.

Together with this, the indiscriminate destruction of forests and construction of a dozen dams across the tributaries of the Ganga, without the backing of any proper scientific studies, had led to the tragedy.

“Anarchic growth of tourism will lead to catastrophe,” he said.

The experience from destinations such as Agra, where little attention was given to the sentiments of local people, had created a situation where no further development was possible around the Taj Mahal, he pointed out and said responsible tourism was possible only in an environment of sustainable and inclusive development.

“Responsible tourism (RT) is not just about economy and livelihood, it is also about the removal of debris generated by tourists. Not just the physical debris, but the economic, psychological and cultural debris,” Mr. Yechury said and added that it was necessary to preserve our tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

A movement

Calling Kerala’s tourism model a “tourism movement,” Mr. Yechury asked the stakeholders to set their responsible tourism standards high so that international responsible tourism standards would compare them. “Let the world compare with ours,” he said.

Union Minister of State for Tourism K. Chiranjeevi in his message, which was read out on the occasion, said in spite of an unparalleled range of destinations and products, the tourism industry faced major challengesState Tourism Minister A..P Anil Kumar in his presidential address said that when it was decided to elevate Kumarakom to an international destination on the pro-poor RT model, steps were taken to mobilise informal sectors such as self-help groups, farmers groups and homestead farmers to produce, procure and supply goods and services needed by the tourism industry. A video message on Responsible Tourism from Taleb D. Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO, was aired at the inaugural session.

  • Cites forest destruction in the northern State

  • Sees indiscriminate exploitation for tourism