Friday, 1 March, 2024

Sustainable Tourism


Saudamini Chalise

Nepal dubbed as a mystic Shangrila tucked behind the facades of the Himalayas is well exposed to the paraphernalia of tourism. The notion of tourism peeped into its virgin and pristine dales and valleys in the 50s especially after climbing Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Since then Nepal has remained the most sought-after exotic destination of southeast Asia. Decades after the red carpet was rolled out for tourism, deleterious and pernicious side effects slowly seeped into every stratum in the nation.

Generating Revenues
Tourism became an inevitable poison ivy that had to be embraced but with utmost vigilance and stratification. Nepal juggled up between the requirement of generating revenues through the influx of tourists and protecting its natural wealth from being consumed and disintegrated by the phenomenon of tourism after the decade of 2010 in the form of sustainable tourism.

The concept of ‘sustainable tourism’ was introduced in the late 1980s, however, it came into existence after 2002, after the world tourism organisation launched sustainable tourism in the context of the Millennium development goals as it was perceived that tourism could be the alternative in innumerable nations around the world. The core principle of ‘Sustainable tourism’ is the summation of seven following principles: Using resources sustainability, reducing overconsumption and waste, maintaining biodiversity, integrating tourism into planning, supporting local economies, involving local communities, consulting stakeholders and the public The government and as well as the stakeholders of the tourism industry have to support the growth of ‘Sustainable Tourism’ in the context of Nepal. Nepal is a tiny nation cramped between two mega nations with a vibrant economy, therefore it has to put an extra effort to buck up its USB in the global context. For instance, what is Nepal selling, in regards to tourism products? Nepal is not selling the concrete jungle that has sprouted unmethodically amidst the city areas of the nation, it is not selling the pseudo contrived monuments manufactured from cement and nor it is not selling nightclubs, pubs borrowed from the western influence.

Tourists flock to Nepal seeking its unperturbed pristine natural destinations that are unpolluted and preserved. They long to witness the long-lost cultures and ethnicity that have remained uncorrupted from their western cultures. Lakes, rivers, sites of natural heritages, pastures, dales have to be constantly preserved to enhance our selling capacity of the tourism product. It's a continuous process that has to be checked and balanced. Only putting up piles of high rises on the map of the city will not increase our catching the attention of the prospective consumers of Nepalese tourism produces. Nepal has to come up with a unique factor that will substantiate our goals.

The definition of 'Sustainable Tourism' according to the world tourism organization is "Sustainable tourism meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing the opportunities for the future. It is envisaged as leading management of all the local resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential economic processes, biological diversity, and life support system".Sustainable tourism has three major dimensions: i)Environmental ii) Economic, and iii) Social
The most commonly perceived view of sustainability is about the environment which consists of the natural and physical environment and its protection. While enumerating on the 'Sustainable tourism' the five aspects of the environment has to be taken into the consideration. They are 1. The natural resources 2. The natural environment 3. The farmed environment 4. Wildlife 5. The built environment

Foreign Currency Earner
The economic dimensions consist of economic costs and economic benefits of tourism as tourism is an economic phenomenon as it’s a foreign currency earner and the basis of growth of many transnational corporations. And is the catalyst for a significant proportion of the annual disposable income.

A country like Nepal can encash the economic benefits of tourism such as the penetrations of income into the local economy through the multiplier effects, development of the infrastructure, keeping the local business vibrant and viable, and creation of jobs but at the same, it needs to focus on the rehabilitation process of the natural assets of the country and not overdo it.

The natural assets of our country continuously needed to be protected and taken a tailored made approach to lengthen its life because the economic costs of tourism such as congestion, seasonal and low paid jobs, opportunity costs, and ironic investments in expensive infrastructures which is may be required for the part of the year. Another dimension that is given lesser importance than the others is the social dimension.

The after-effects of the social impact of tourism often carry catch 22 situations, it's impossible to reverse the social impacts experienced by the host community. Especially in the context of Nepal, it's pertinent to keep the eyes peeled out for the number of factors that will further determine whether or not the balance of the socio-cultural impacts will be positive or negative. The factors are 1. The level of social development and economic development of the host population concerning the tourist. 2. The coherence of the local society and culture, and 3. The role played by the public sector in destination to manage tourism to curtail the socio-cultural costs of tourism.

Revenue Generation
Embracing tourism as a prime source of revenue generation is like walking on a sharp double-edged knife, a single wrong move can result in devastating after-effects on diverse aspects of the host country. Nepal must choose wisely while implementing its tourism-related blueprints. A thoroughly researched team and involvement of all the stakeholders is an absolute necessity.
A policy of regular checks and balances should be put into motion at the government level. To prolong the prospects of tourism in the country, Nepal has to harness and implement the core theory of 'sustainable tourism' as the priceless wealth of natural resources and pristine environment is often fragile and can cease to exist if not handled without prudence and scrutiny.

(Chalise holds a Master's degree in travel and tourism.