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Written Submission to Ministry of Tourism on National Tourism Policy, 2015
March 23, 2015

call for action
Click here to download 'Written Submission to Ministry of Tourism on National Tourism Policy, 2015, March 2015-EQUATIONS', 188kb.

Written Submission to Ministry of Tourism on National Tourism Policy, 2015

23 March 2015

A. Tourism Policy, Planning and Regulation

1. Sustainable Tourism Development
Sustainable tourism development is applicable to all forms of tourism, which are in harmony with their economic, social, physical and cultural environment in the long term. The 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment that took place in Stockholm and which, in its declaration, defined key principles of sustainable development concerning environment and development, which was to be followed by all countries who are signatories. With the failure of the effectiveness of the 1972 declaration, the World Commission on Environment and Development was created to formulate a global agenda for change. It is in their report 'Our Common Future' released in 1987 that a definition of Sustainable Development was promulgated and which has today gained universal acceptability. Below is a reproduction from the document:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
  • the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."
- World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987 p. 43.

The UNWTO defines Sustainable Tourism as 'leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems. Article 3 of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, adopted by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in 1999, further articulates practices that the tourism industry should engage in to achieve goals of Sustainable Development.

Furthermore, the Agenda 21, an action plan formulated at the United Nations Conference on Environment & Development Rio de Janerio, Brazil, in June 1992 identifies tourism with the potential to play an important role in the global movement towards Sustainable Development. Additionally, Chapter 28 of the Agenda 21, focuses on the role of local authorities in the fruition of the objectives of Sustainable Development.

Quoting from the Mid-term appraisal of the 11th five year plan for Tourism, ‘Tourism is an industry with great reliance on attraction and amenities, along with dependence on the goodwill of the local community. Of late, the social and economic consequences of tourism have raised various issues related to environment and the impact on the local community. Therefore, in order to have sustainable tourism development, the involvement of local people would be of utmost importance’.

Expectation from the Policy, 2015
1.1 Central to the National Tourism Policy, 2015 is the definition and principles of Sustainable Development. Accordingly, the forthcoming Policy will envision tourism that is people governed and where the accountability of the tourism industry is paramount to its implementation.. For this all aspects of tourism - environmental, economic, social, cultural, and its institutions are taken into account. Tourism, will be developed and promoted respecting the land, its people, their culture and the prevailing laws

1.2 Voices of local people are heard and their perspectives and aspirations privileged as tourism destinations are their homeland and cultural spaces. Where processes of planning and implementation are transparent and participatory so that all stakeholders have the space to influence its forms and outcomes, and where tourism is designed with the principles of equity in benefits at its core.

1.3 As tourism is an important instrument of bringing people together, learning about, and respecting each others cultures, all forms of tourism in our vision are necessarily non- exploitative, respect human rights, are gender just, and do not dispossess nature and communities.

1.4 Sustainable Tourism Cell is to be instituted at the Central and State levels. The function of this Cell would include:

  • To coordinate a process for visioning for tourism development in India based on the principles of sustainable tourism: The vision for tourism is of decision making, planning and implementation being democratised.
  • Research on the various issues of sustainable tourism – on sound tourism impact assessments studies with focus on specific groups within the society, climate change, tourism carrying capacities of an area and developing monitoring tools that would inform guidelines and practices. Research at both micro and macro level to assess the economic benefits, multipliers and leakages are critical so that policies are based on data. Master planning processes to be more inclusive and consultative with stakeholders particularly local stakeholders. Planning for tourism is not a one off process but cyclical and iterative, based on a loop of experiences, impacts and learnings.
  • Coordinate the STCI process – plan, implement, monitor and expand the Criteria to all sectors of tourism (organised and unorganised) within the country.
  • Coordinate the Safe and Honourable Tourism Process – plan, implement, monitor and expand the Code to all sectors of tourism (organised and unorganised) within the country.
  • As part of its monitoring role, the Cell conducts social audit of its tourism projects once every 5 years.
  • The Results – Framework Document developed by MoT will include qualitative and quantitative indicators towards implementation and monitoring of its various initiatives on sustainable tourism.  
1.5 A Scheme on Sustainable Tourism is proposed that will work on the following issues:

  • Sustainable Tourism Cell – Visioning for Tourism Development, research, coordination, monitoring
  • Scheme on Safe and Honourable Tourism – implementation, monitoring and expansion of the Code to all sectors of tourism within the country
  • Scheme on Sustainable Tourism Criteria of India – implementation, monitoring and expansion of the Code to all sectors of tourism within the country
2. Tourism Planning
The Constitution of India in Article 40 in the Directive Principles of State Policy, states “The State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self government”. The subsequent changes made to the Constitution through the 73rd applicable to Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) and 74th amendment applicable to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) further strengthen this provision. A key aspect of this is the devolution of powers (funds, functions and functionaries) to Local Self Governing Institutions (LSGIs) so that the Policy is aligned with the laws of the country vis-a-vis governance.

The focus of tourism planning has been focussed much more on the ways to increase revenues from tourism and on improving tourist experience. While tourism is inherently a commercial activity, it cannot be ignored that it results in impacts which both contribute to communities, but which are also detrimental to their interests. Impacts of tourism across the country are evident. However, these have not been compiled and analysed to arrive at concrete learnings on how to improve the experience of tourism from the point of view of local communities. Importantly, certain benefits attributed to tourism have not been adequately explored. For e.g. while it is a popular claim that tourism increases employment opportunities at a destination, there is no account of how it has impeded already existing occupations such as agriculture, fishing, handicrafts and other such traditional occupations, which are far more economically and environmentally sustainable. Therefore opportunity costs of tourism have not been adequately calculated and taken into consideration while planning for tourism.

All development has a threshold, beyond which it harms society rather than contributing to it. Unfortunately, lack of tourism planning has already breached these in several parts of the country resulting in over crowding and running down of resources, which run counter to the objectives of Sustainable Development.

Past experience of the Ministry of Tourism as well as the Departments of Tourism have been the lack of transparency in the planning process. Vision plans are made without true public engagement, where announcements are made in tokenistic forms. Information is the first step to access power. Armed with information and data local communities would be able to contribute meaningfully to the planning process.

While the Ministry engages with the industry to hear from them, their perspectives, there has not been a similar tradition for engagements with people living in tourism destinations. Even within the industry, when plans are made and implemented, the unorganised sector is ignored and at best a few welfare measures are proposed...