The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has approved the adoption of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Our quest of probing tourism from the lens/ point of view of “Who Really Benefits from Tourism?” brings into the foreground certain realities, issues and concerns that makes us question - is tourism in the country actually moving towards sustainability or is sustainable tourism an oxymoron? Sustainable tourism, which has been chosen as the cornerstone to guide tourism development in the years to come is the step in the right direction. However, the concern is on how these ideas will be translated into actionable points. The fear is that in the absence of a clear understanding of what the framework, guidelines & action plan of sustainable tourism encompasses,, it then is left to be interpreted by each entity in the way they want it, to meet their interest and will continue to remain on paper unless given serious thought and delivered upon. Our concern stems from the way tourism has grown in this country, the dilution of regulatory frameworks to push tourism, the policies that are over loaded with the industry perspective of tourism development and negligible attention being given to the perspectives of local communities and looking into the wide impacts of tourism. To illustrate our point of view, we build the discussion based on two case studies that were adjudicated by the National Green Tribunal, one with respect to coastal tourism and the other hill tourism. The time is running out, unless “Sustainable Tourism” is not adopted in true spirit and practice, it is not long when even the concept of “Sustainable Development” will be up for sale.
The Kerala Tourism Policy 2011 (Draft) issued by the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala in November 2011 recognises the role of local self governing institutions in tourism development. The policy also visualises sustainable development through involving local panchayat and communities. Both these are welcome moves. What needs a perspective change is the excessive tourist focus without consideration of the impacts on local communities. The objectives of the policy seem to be primarily about the role and functions of the Department of Tourism and the formal sector of the tourism industry while the informal sector of the tourism industry that constitutes a significant part of the industry and economy has been ignored. EQUATIONS’ critique highlights the need for tourism impacts to be considered in policy formulation and implementation.
Over the years, Centre for Responsible Tourism (CRT) has continuously tried to analyse and work on negative impacts of tourism and focused on ensuring that the local communities benefit from tourism. CRT strives to bring in community stewardship and management with respect to tourism planning and management and has worked on issues pertaining to child sex tourism, exploitation of women, cultural conflicts, water abuse, foreign office travel advisories, displacement of people, environmental damage and the empowerment of different sub-sectors in tourism such as homestays, taxi operators, shacks. This publication provides an overview, critique and appraisal of the work done by CRT till February 2009. It has also compiled the salient activities and statements made during this period and aims to inspire people to look at steps to humanise tourism and make it just and sustainable in Goa.