Thursday, 23 January 2014

Sustainable Tourism: Kovalam, A Few Decades Back

World Tourism Day
World Tourism Day is being celebrated with a special focus on the theme Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common FutureThe observance of World Tourism Day on every September 27 represents a special occasion for raising awareness of tourism’s role in water access and shine a spotlight on the sector’s contribution to a more sustainable water future. 

Tourism has proven to provide environmentally sound solutions, as well as political and financial support, for the conservation and sustainable use of water sources. But more must be doneWith a record one billion international tourists travelling in a single year in 2012, now is the time to commit to a more sustainable tourism sector in order to protect our common future.

An Old Article
            In this connection, an article written by late C Achutha Menon, former Chief Minister of Kerala and a widely respected intellectual throws valuable insights into the role of tourism in the protection of sustainable resources. The article is a description of his visit, as a young man, to the world famous beach side resort near Thiruvananthapuram -Kovalam. The visit takes places in the late 30s or the early 40s.

            Achutha Menon has underscored three aspects of his visit. The first point he notes was the ease with which he and his friends, accompanied by an older teacher, were able to access the tourist spot. The pristine purity of the resort, the unblemished natural beauty of the sun and sand filled resort and the non commercialized feel of the whole environment all were specially noteworthy; but Acutha Menon is an acute observer when he points out that all this could be of no consequence if the place is not easily accessible.

            The second point that the astute traveler in Achutha Menon throws light is on the affordability of visiting the place. Menon recollects that there were enough bus services from Thiruvananthapuram to Kovalam – a distance of something like 20 to 25 kilo metres. The bus services were clean and punctual. There were enough services so that people could spent a day at the beach and return after viewing the sunset.

            The third point that Achutha Menon lays stress is on the eco friendly nature of the tourism culture that prevailed in those days. The use of plastics was not so widely spread. People used to bring food packed in plantain leaves and the packets were thrown in specially designated places after use. The eco friendly nature of plantain leaves were an assurance that no harm will accrue to nature as a result of tourism activity. Looking back, we can see the rudiments of the principles of what is called in modern times as “Green Economy” in practice.

Green Economy
  Recent events in the worlds of finance and economy have lead to the development of the concept of “green economy’ and “sustainable tourism”.  A green economy is one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines a green economy as one that “results in improved human-wellbeing and social equity, at the same time reducing environmental risks and ecological sacrifices. The Kovalam tour description by Achutha Menon is an example of such green and responsible tourism.

The recently published UN Green Economy Report points out that the greening of tourism, which involves significant investment in efficiency  improvements in energy, water and waste systems, would stimulate job creation, especially in poorer communities, with increased local hiring and sourcing, and have a positive spill-over effect on other areas of the economy. The direct economic contribution of tourism to local communities would also increase; maximizing the amount of tourist spending that is retained by the local economy.

World Tourism Day in India
 Coinciding with the World Tourism Day the Ministry of Tourism is launching a new campaign titled “777 days of Incredible Indian Himalaya” aimed at attracting both the national and international travellers. 

The campaign is an endeavour to make Indian Himalayas into a 365-day destination for the travellers.  The campaign will attract more international travellers to India during the lean summer months and make India a year round destination.  Himalayan tourism offers opportunities to the travellers round the year. In the winters, Himalayas offer a great variety of adventure sports such as Skiing.  Tourists can also enjoy the scenic beauty of the snow-clad Himalayas.  

In summers, tourists can enjoy expeditions in the Himalayas, White Water Rafting and also adventure sports such as Mountain Trekking and Skiing.  They can also enjoy the scenic beauty of the attractive Flora and Fauna all around them.  The Himalaya are also of great relevance for the Buddhist tourist on account of peace and serenity they offer.  The Himalayas offer hues and colours of variety of shades giving a unique experience. 

            A number of activities have been flagged off on World Tourism Day to ensure that responsible, green tourism is promoted at all levels. In the historic city of Madurai inTamilnadu, a programme to raise awareness about the historical structures and the tourism potential of the district is also planned. About 200 students from the tourism department of various colleges were taken on a heritage walk to mark the occasion. They were taken to 10 historical places across the city. The walk began at the historical Meenakshi AmmanTemple and concluded at the magnificent Thirumalai Naicker Mahal.    

Assocham, the prominent association of Chambers of Commerce has recently assessed that tourism has achieved a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 13 per cent.  At this rate, it is estimated that the nation’s foreign exchange earnings from the tourism sector are likely to reach US $26 billion in 2015 from the current level of about $20 billion.

The arrival of foreign tourists in India is likely to cross the 80 lakh mark by 2015 from the current level of about 70 lakh, says an analysis of international tourist receipts and foreign tourist arrival in India conducted by Assocham.            

            The analysis also points out five states, including Tamilnadu, Maharashtra,  Delhi, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Rajasthan are top five destinations attracting maximum number of foreign tourists. They collectively account for 70 per cent of the total number of foreign tourists visiting India.

History of World Tourism Day
 Since 1980, the United Nation World Tourism Organisation has celebrated World Tourism Day on September 27. This date was chosen as on that day in 1970, the Statutes of the UNWTO were adopted. The adoption of these Statutes is considered a milestone in global tourism. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to bring to light how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.

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