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Unlocking The Secrets Of Sustainable Travel: Growing Eco-Tourism In Northern India

3 min read

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Reading Time: 3 minutes


From the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the dense, verdant forests and winding rivers, northern India boasts some of the most diverse and breathtaking landscapes in the world. This region’s natural beauty and rich biodiversity make it a prime candidate for eco-tourism. However, despite its potential, the development of sustainable tourism in northern India has been slow compared to other regions, both domestically and internationally. To unlock its full potential, northern India must address several significant challenges and learn from successful eco-tourism models elsewhere.

Challenges in Eco-Tourism Development

From the snow-capped Himalayas to lush forests and winding rivers, northern India’s diverse landscapes hold immense potential for eco-tourism. However, despite its natural beauty and rich biodiversity, sustainable or eco-tourism development in this area has lagged behind other parts of the country and the world. Many lessons can be learned from the already successful projects in other regions.

Key Issues Identified

  1. Lack of Innovation: According to P A Mohammed Riyas, Kerala’s Minister for Public Works and Tourism, a shortage of innovative approaches has hindered growth. Insufficient expertise and haphazard development have led to negative effects.
  2. Insufficient Investment: Pooja Nataraja, co-founder of The ImPart Collective, highlighted a 2019 Ministry of Tourism report showing that only 6% of India’s tourism investment goes towards eco-tourism.
  3. Human-Wildlife Conflicts: Increased tourism has led to more human-wildlife conflicts, particularly in regions like Uttarakhand.

Sustainable Infrastructure and Government Role

Infrastructure Improvements

Amit Jaipuria, founder and CEO of Postcard Travel Club, emphasized the need for green construction methods, locally sourced materials, and a focus on energy efficiency and waste management. He stressed the importance of community engagement.

Scientific Planning and Management

Riyas underscored the necessity of scientific know-how and proper planning, advocating for sustainable development principles, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), and proper visitor management practices.

Understanding Carrying Capacity

Mridula Tangirala, head of tourism at Tata Trusts, pointed out the importance of understanding an area’s carrying capacity—the amount of tourism it can safely absorb. Tourism success should be measured not only in economic terms but also by considering community and environmental empathy, education, and equity among stakeholders.

Successful Models and Examples

Local Community Involvement

G S Rathore, founder of Jungle Camps India, emphasized that successful eco-tourism relies on active local community participation and support. He pointed out the lack of awareness about economic benefits and insufficient training programs to empower locals.

Kerala’s Responsible Tourism Initiative

Kerala’s Responsible Tourism initiative integrates local communities into the tourism value chain, promoting cultural exchanges and economic benefits while preserving natural resources. Examples include the Thenmala eco-tourism project and activities in the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

International Success: Costa Rica

Costa Rica stands out as a prime example of successful eco-tourism development. Rathore highlighted the country’s initiatives focused on biodiversity conservation. National parks, private reserves, and sustainable lodges offer experiences like wildlife watching, canopy tours, and sustainable agriculture visits. The country’s eco-tourism framework generates $1.7 billion annually, emphasizing biodiversity conservation and community benefits.

Fostering Awareness and Appreciation

Educational Outreach

Megh, founder of Narayan Eco Home Stay in Jibhi, Himachal Pradesh, stressed the importance of educational outreach. He advocated for impactful campaigns and workshops to equip locals with essential skills and educate tourists about sustainable practices.

Publicity and Multi-Stakeholder Involvement

Riyas recommended using publicity and PR activities to enhance multi-stakeholder involvement in eco-tourism site development and management. Awareness creation should start before the planning stage and involve local people.

Regenerative Tourism

Tangirala introduced the concept of regenerative tourism, which revives ancient wisdom and knowledge in local communities through review, re-engagement, and re-interpretation. Fact-based yet compelling storytelling can change the understanding and attitudes of both visitors and locals, building a strong foundation for responsible tourism.


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