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Everyday we hear that tourism brings economic development, it creates jobs and revenues. But who really benefits from it? The local community, the village elite, or the owner?
There’s been an exponential increase in tourism in india over the last several decades, fueled by the growing economy and disposable incomes. The tourism industry in India has expanded wildly in an unregulated fashion with no regard for environmental, social and cultural impacts.
Tourism is not just a holiday, it changes the entire social, cultural and economic landscape of its surroundings. Local economies become dependent on tourism, which slowly strangles traditional occupations like agriculture, fishing, artisanal work and handicrafts. Land and beaches get taken over for construction of tourism infrastructure affecting farmers, adivasis and fishworkers. The landless are often forced to 'settle down' and become labour in the tourism industry. People who are dependent on natural resources like forests, coasts and grasslands often find themselves restricted, as tourism is developed without taking into consideration the carrying capacity of these regions. Artisans are co-opted into the tourism industry and often forced to compromise on their art to deliver cheap souvenirs. The unorganised sector which according to various studies contributes 60-70 % in tourism industry, is often seen as being a nuisance, affecting the attraction of the destination and therefore marked as something that should be removed. There are social costs. The abuse of women, children particularly those forced into sex work, trafficking and child labour because of tourism. Current forms of tourism, systemically and systematically perpetuate the caste system, with sometimes even furthering caste based occupations especially those concerning dalits and adivasis. Tourism not only maintains but furthers social hierarchies.
EQUATIONS was founded in 1985 to examine the impacts of tourism development, liberalisation and new economic polices. While the tourism industry, the middle class and the upper class of society enjoyed the benefits of this shift, what did do for everyone else? Tribal, dalits, women, coastal communities and the poor.
Would it better their lives economically and qualitatively, and would they have greater access to healthcare, education and employment? Were the natural resources on which they depend protected? Did they have any influence in any of the development decisions? Did they have a voice in policy making?
For several years EQUATIONS operated as a research centre studying the impacts of tourism on ecosystems, indigenous tribes, women and children, economy and environment. By late 90s, we had identified five key areas of tourism impact: economical, social, environmental, cultural and governance.
Through our extensive research, we initiate campaigns against unjust and unsustainable tourism leading to advocacy for policy change. One of the central underlying themes is ‘Who really benefits from tourism?’