EQUATIONS' Statement on the World Tourism Day
27th September 2020
On World Tourism Day 2020, Equitable Tourism Options (EQUATIONS), urges the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India to take this COVID 19 pandemic slowdown as an opportunity to transform tourism that is sustainable and resilient.
The COVID 19 pandemic and many other recent incidents and catastrophes undoubtedly proved that tourism is one of the most vulnerable industries and perhaps one of the hardest hit. One is observing that there is an increasing urge by many to go back to business as usual, perhaps to overcompensate for losses by even more aggressive growth. The current bailout packages by industry and response from governments does not offer any hope towards fundamental systemic reformation within the industry which also contributed to the crisis. We urge the Governments to provide urgent and efficient support to the most vulnerable groups in the tourism sector, who are the workers in the formal and informal economy. Among them are migrant workers and women, who face particular discriminations and vulnerabilities.
The theme of this year's World Tourism Day is “Tourism and Rural Development”. UNWTO states that “This Year is an opportunity to promote the potential of tourism to create jobs and opportunities. It can also advance inclusion and highlight the unique role that tourism can play in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage and curbing urban migration”.
While this is being celebrated across the globe as a response to the COVID 19 pandemic to restart tourism, we see that the places that were completely dependent on tourism are suffering from joblessness and hunger. The current relief measures announced by governments are not only insufficient to address the massive problems faced by millions of people whose livelihoods are at stake but also exempted those who are vulnerable and part of the informal sector such as migrant workers, street vendors, taxi drivers, Rickshawalas, women etc. Several workers in spite of being employed in the organized sector, are either contractual or casual workers without security of employment. Obviously, the promises of tourism to be a key contributor to sustainable development have not been fulfilled. The crisis now establishes that the current tourism model is neither resilient nor sustainable.
In the midst of this crisis, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India announced its Draft National Tourism Policy 2020. The policy is silent about the crisis and fundamental measures need to be taken to address it. Rather the draft policy speaks about opening up newer destinations and an ambitious growth in tourism. A policy of constant growth and expansion in tourism is not compatible with a resilient and sustainable future. Growth approaches must be contextualised.
The proposal to have centralised standardisation can kill the diversity of tourism in a vast country like India. This proposed standardization and certification would also mean more investment, resulting in killing many of the small enterprises at rural tourism locations.
The suggestion of setting up Destination Management Organisations as SPVs (Special Purpose Vehicle) in the form of private limited companies with CEO is creating parastatal bodies with no elected representatives will take away the spirit of decentralised governance, powers and functions of Local Self Governments. This will severely limit the participation of communities in the tourism decision making processes. We call for strengthening the existing systems of Local Self Governments with more powers rather than creating parallel private bodies which can create further privatisation of common resources.
To ensure that tourism is resilient and sustainable, it should be defined by the local communities, as it is practised in their homelands and it impacts their lives. The destination should decide its destiny.
We call upon the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and the tourism promoters to uphold the principle of “leave no one behind” as a key element for sustainable and responsible development now, and as the Travel & Tourism industry recovers and restarts its operations.
EQUATIONS, established in 1985 is a research, campaign, and advocacy organisation working on tourism and development issues in India. We envision a form of tourism which is non-exploitative, where decision making is democratised, and access to and benefits to tourism are equitably distributed.
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