Citing the shocking incidence of a group of travellers who had driven their car into the pristine Pangong Lake in Ladakh, Union Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh on Friday said unless sustainability and environment-sensitive behaviours are practised by visitors, local communities would ”not welcome tourists in the future”.
During a panel discussion on ”Policy Recipe book for India @100” here, he also said that ”green and sustainable tourism” is one of the priorities in the new National Tourism Policy being formulated, which is in the ”final stages”.
A few months ago, an undated video showing a group of tourists driving their car through the fragile waterbody in Leh had gone viral on the internet, drawing sharp reactions from netizens, many of whom had demanded action against them.
The lake, known for its almost crystal clear water, was popularised by the Bollywood film ”3 Idiots”. Parts of the movie were shot at the beautiful natural site. The lake, known for its almost crystal clear water, was popularised by the Bollywood film ”3 Idiots”.
The Union tourism secretary also spoke of ’revenge tourism’ and how it led to rise in demand, as also on how tourists had rushed in large numbers to the hills during the last summer when the mercury in the plains had soared.
Revenge travel or revenge tourism refers to the phenomenon wherein people travel to break free from the mundane life in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that ensued.
It also stems from circumstance that has been described by some as ”lockdown fatigue” or exhaustion that follow due to it. Revenge travel or revenge tourism refers to the phenomenon wherein people travel to break free from the mundane life in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that ensued.
”I do not see a problem as far as the speed and scale is concerned… and policy tweaks will be required, like access to credit, and flow of credit will have to be facilitated, but what is important is the question of sustainability. The concept of carrying capacity in certain parts of the country is being ignored,” Singh said in response to a question during the interaction.
”We saw it in the summers in the plain, everybody running to the hills. There were a lot of anecdotal stories about shortage of rooms, taxis and others things that happened,” he said.
So, going ahead, the issue of carrying capacity, and the issue of our destinations becoming sustainable, not only in terms of policy-making, but also on part of the practitioners, the tourists and the local community is very important, the secretary said.
”Because, unless there is sustainability, the community is going to start to hate tourists who are coming. You have seen the example of somebody driving a jeep in the Pangong Lake. So, if you continue with this kind of behaviour, obviously the local community is not going to welcome tourists in the future,” Singh cautioned and, added, ”we are definitely set for growth (in the sector), but that has to be sustainable”.
During the interactive session organised by the Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI), the top official of the Ministry of Tourism also said that till recent times, the environment in Kashmir was ”not very conducive, but I was there few weeks ago, and talking to people in the private sector, and they were all very positive”.
A 500-room hotel by a leading hotel chain is coming up at Pehalgam in Jammu and Kashmir, and a leading hotel chain is opening a number of hotels in Jammu and Kashmir, he added.
The tourism sector in Jammu and Kashmir had taken a severe hit in 2019 and beyond due to changing political atmosphere in the erstwhile state, which was bifurcated into two Union territories Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh after abrogation of Article 370.
It was on August 5, 2019 when the Centre had ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and restrictions imposed in the region that had severely impacted tourism there.
Union minister G Kishan Reddy, on August 4, had said Jammu and Kashmir registered a ”record footfall” of tourists at airports and sightseeing places in the last several months due to ”transformative initiatives” of the Narendra Modi government such as the abrogation of Article 370.
The Union tourism secretary also spoke of investments happening on varying scales in the tourism sector in the northeast. ”Also, two islands in Lakshwadeep have been awarded to a leading hotel group to develop resorts there, and certain investments are also coming in Diu,” he added.
On the new National Tourism Policy, he said it envisions ”what kind of tourism we want to give in the future and has five priority areas”. ”First, tourism should be green and sustainable. There should be more digital penetration, we rank low in this at present, and more skilling has to be there. MSME is also our priority area and the role of the private sector, as its our main investor,” Singh said.
The Union tourism secretary also said that a group of secretaries are ”working on presenting a vision for the future, within sectors, with targets for the next 25 years”. Officials said the meeting for the tourism sector is expected to be held next week when it will be presented to the Council of Ministers. The last national tourism policy was formulated in 2002.
The last national tourism policy was formulated in 2002. The National Tourism Policy has been drafted with a holistic vision and strategy to revive India’s tourism sector and targets to achieve USD 1 trillion by the sector in 2047, the tourism ministry had recently said.
Singh said, ”In this period, we also wish to see number of arrivals of international tourists rise from 20 million (pre-Covid period in 2019) to 100 million in 2047.”