Criticising the view that local communities were a burden on tourism, D.A.C. Suranga Silva, a professor at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, said on Thursday that locals and their knowledge were a great strength for sustainable development of tourism.
He also stressed the need for devising new tourism development models that could benefit local communities and the country’s economy. He was addressing the inaugural session of an international conference on community involvement in tourism development in emerging countries, organised at the School of Business Studies, Central University of Karnataka (CUK), Kadaganchi. The three-day conference is the first of a series of events to be organised to mark the year-long decennial celebrations of the CUK.
“We see local communities as a predicament to tourism development. The communities, on the other hand, are afraid of tourism development. In Sri Lanka, the inflow of tourists has significantly increased over the year. However, the benefits generated by value addition are reaped by a few, leaving the locals deprived. As long as we don’t ensure the participation of local communities, sustainable development of tourism cannot be ensured... Sri Lanka and India, or South Asia for that matter, are rich in diversity and unity. The entire region has great potential for tourism development. It can be tapped with the active participation of local communities. The time has come to see local communities and their knowledge as a great asset for tourism development. It will also help improve the economic conditions of the local communities as they could greatly benefit from tourism development,” he said.
Sandeep Kulshreshtha, director of the Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, Gwalior, presented a case study involving Pragpur village of Himachal Pradesh and Pipli village of Odisha, where the participation of local communities has resulted in remarkable development of tourism. He also pointed out that the advanced regions of the world, including the United States and Europe, were struggling to touch double-digit growth mark in tourism development when compared to emerging countries such as Sri Lanka, which has crossed 20% growth.
“It is because of community participation that tourism has crossed the double-digit growth mark in the likes of Egypt, Brazil and Uzbekistan, and even touched 20% in the case of a few markets such as Sri Lanka... Community involvement has helped tourism flourish in States such as Kerala, Rajasthan and Goa, where you can commonly find community-based homestays... Countries like Nepal, the Maldives, Bangladesh and Bhutan have had a number of community-based initiatives for facilitating and helping tourists, such as providing shelters, guides, food, and transport facilities,” he said.
Sharanabasappa Appa, Chancellor of Sharnbasva University, inaugurated the event and H.M. Maheshwaraiah, Vice-Chancellor of CUK, presided.