Sustainability is a choice – if we have the courage to make it. Declaring 2017 as the year of Sustainable Tourism has once again served to highlight how unsustainable mainstream tourism is. The peak tourism season this year, saw local residents from many “destinations” across Europe on the streets, protesting. The Venetians, the Spanish – resisting a tourism that was ruining their cities, resisting the knock-on effects of rising rent, over crowding and pollution. They were angry at the loss of a place that no longer felt like their own but one that is constantly changing to accommodate the demands of the burgeoning tourism industry.
Globally, enclavisation in tourism arose from the need to create exclusive centres of tourism that are safe investments and that which ensures a steady flow of income across all seasons. But, studies show that the intense resource usage by tourism establishments, the resultant environmental pollution, widened income inequalities, displacement of people and socio-cultural effects are some of the adverse impacts associated with tourism enclaves around the world. Economically, these enclaves end up giving little to “host” communities as they wait endlessly for a share of the tourist spending to ‘trickle down’ to them.
When the Special Economic Zone Act was passed in 2005, it generated a euphoric response from the private sector. However, it has raised concerns from those who do not see SEZs benefiting them but rather increasing hardships of economic livelihood and sustenance of people. Tourism is also in the list of industries seeking potential benefits from the SEZ Policy. According to the SEZ Act 2005 and corresponding Rules, only 25%-30% of the total area in any SEZ need be statutorily used for developing and setting up of the industrial/manufacturing units. The rest of the land can be used for developing 'infrastructure'. This gives an open invitation to the hospitality, entertainment and hotel sectors to make the most with SEZs. Further, the National Tourism Advisory Council (NTAC) proposed to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture that the government should also consider Special Tourism Zones (STZs) on the lines of SEZs.
This publication captures critical links between the SEZ policy and role of tourism that needs our continued campaign focus. We hope it serves as a useful reference and spreads awareness on the need to intensify our struggles against this policy.
The Kerala Tourism (Conservation and Preservation of Areas) Act 2005 declares certain areas of the state as Special Tourism Zones (STZs) and details the method of developing those areas. In this paper, we have critiqued the Act and the reasons why we believe the State Legislators, the State Planning Commission, members of Local Self Governing bodies and the Tourism Department should call for a renewed debate and amendment of the Act. Some of the concerns with the Act in its present state are: it renders the powers and mandate of Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies obsolete by the seizure of power by the State, the functions and powers of the Tourism Conservation and Preservation Committee as constituted by the Act has immunity from democratic and judicial accountability, and most importantly the real danger of how the Act leaves communities choiceless once their area is declared as a Special Tourism Zone (STZ).
Similar to other state tourism policies in India, Chattisgarh government’s policy primarily focuses on tourism promotion. The vision of the policy to generate employment, produce social and communal harmony through tourism development and to ensure holistic tourism is laudable. But how this will be achieved is not clear. The policy also states the key focus area of the government to be infrastructure and institutional development, tourism product development and marketing. There is a heavy infrastructure development premise; setting up Special Tourism Zones (STZs), intensive financial incentives to the private sector and with almost no reference to regulation. If the practical policy guidelines are followed, tourism would be more exploitative than beneficial to local communities. This paper critiques the policy and focuses on the probable impact of the policy and important tourism impact issues that have not been covered.