NE tourism stakeholders to brainstorm at Gangtok for responsible tourism code

25 August 2010

Sikkim Express
GANGTOK: A two day regional consultation on ‘responsible tourism’ in the North-eastern region of India organized by Shillong based NGO, Impulse in collaboration with Equations, Bangalore and supported by UNGIFT is scheduled to be held at Gangtok on August 26 and 27.
The regional seminar held with the theme ‘Talk for change for making tourism sustainable, equitable and just’ is being organized with the objective of initiating a process of dialogue and developing a perspective on responsible tourism for the North-eastern region in order to influence tourism policy and practice in the region. Tourism secretaries of the North-eastern States, members of UNODC, NGOs, media houses, North East Hoteliers Association, Association of Tour Operators of North East, labour secretaries, director general of each North-eastern State and North Eastern Council representatives are participating in the two day brainstorming exercise.
“Through this consultation, we seek to create a platform between government officials, civil society organizations, media and people engaged in the tourism industry (both from the mainstream and community based tourism initiatives) to discuss the critical issues and impacts in tourism in the North East within the framework of current policies and legislations”, said the organizers in a press statement.
The main objective of this consultation is to draft a State policy for safe and responsible tourism which will be sent subsequently to all the North-eastern States and be discussed in a series of State consultations, the organizers said.
“Then the final draft will be formulated and sent to the Central government for approval. This is done in the first phase, the second phase would involve creation of code of conduct for the tourism industry to prevent exploitation of women and children”, said the organizers.
The Impulse pointed out that many North-eastern States have developed tourism and ecotourism policies in the past few years due to policies including ‘Look East’ policy launched to stimulate tourism for economic benefits to the region.
Assam implemented its tourism policy in 2008 while an eco-tourism policy was created in 2004 by Tripura. The governments of Meghalaya, Manipur and Mizoram have also followed suit in the past few years.
All the policies have clauses on responsible tourism regarding exploitation of women and children, said Impulse adding that it wants to ensure that all the North Eastern States have tourism policies which include a section on responsible tourism that protects women and children from exploitation.
“While all policies speak of the economic benefits that tourism accrues, little is spoken on the negative impacts of tourism –questions on who really benefits from tourism, issues on environmental degradation and the impact on society. None of these policies have clauses on responsible tourism regarding exploitation of women”, the Impulse said.
The NGO also highlighted another critical issue of the impact of tourism on children – child labor, child sexual abuse and the trafficking of children. The consultation will focus on these issues in the specific context of the region, it said.
The organizers are incorporating the Code of Conduct on ‘Safe & Honorable Tourism’ adopted by the Government of India in their draft policy to avoid any duplication.