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Ecotourism, Local Communities and the Pandemic

Ecotourism;

-Now defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”

(TIES, 2015). 

 

I explored it with organizations during my research visits to Eco-villages, Eco-tourism spots. I learnt how this conservation practice has provided a durable source of income and a space for the community to show their craft. An appreciation to continue it further.

 

 

The practice is about UNITING.

Conservation, Communities, and Sustainable Travel.

These are key to provide positive experiences for both, the visitors and the host with low impact resources.

 

What to do when the act of conservation itself faces a crisis?

-It is all about survival.

 

People who live around these untouched forest havens often look forward to selling artifacts to tourists. They are now shifting to other income-generating activities. Construction and Farming. Villager’s active participation in these two activities is fueling the never-ending human-wildlife conflicts. As animals invade and destroy their new farms, it is struggle-some to maintain healthy practice. Organisations that bring visitors to indigenous communities have been almost at closure. Experiencing closed borders and worldwide travel restrictions has shaken their business models.

 

Metal bell makers of Kutch have been completely out of business as the international trade shut down. Most of their clientele was in the foreign countries and the sudden loss of income hit hard. When they shared this incidence, I thought I could help. But I couldn’t justify it. How many craft bells could I buy for a personal project? 1000? What after that?

 

The potter community of Amaravathi has completely stopped producing their craft. We thought of bringing them back to business. So we proposed to order 100 cooking pots for a site, which they denied. They said, “neither do we have the initial capital to produce nor access to raw materials due to the entire state being under lock down.” Managing a safe delivery was another story altogether.

 

In this era of digitization, lack of internet literacy hammers hard on the growth of these communities.

 

If situations don’t turn around soon, there is a possibility for the members of these communities to lose faith in actors. If there is no inflow of income from restarting tourism or  from the government.

 

My friends recently ran crowdfunding campaigns for the Shikara community of Kerala. It was commendable that they raised around 1,50,000 in a matter of 7 days. Yet there were 50 families to feed. If you do the math, How long do you think that 2000 rupee note lasted for a family of 6-8 members?

 

Thinking about the future of this innovative practice, it could take years for these places to recover. Double fold the risk of people who rely on other activities to make a living. Putting unsustainable pressure on natural resources! Allowing space for illegal activities to foster.. And a silent death of these culture-reflective practices we’re trying to document and conserve

 

Post the pandemic, with the provision of almost every service back in place…

How would you define Ecotourism?

What would you be conserving?

Would the communities start it?

How?

 

-I repeat, ‘It is all about survival. If we alter our questions, we need to alter our answers as well. We cannot function by what has been set in place until now. We need to define the new normal.’

 

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