Sustainable Tourism and Development: Future Potential for Indian Planning Process

Tourism has emerged as a major economic force in the world. During the period between 1995 and 2005, international tourist arrivals in the world grew by about 50 per cent and reached a level of more than 800 million. It is expected that by 2020 this figure would double with large increases in tourism activities in the world’s poorest regions (WTO, 2003). Studies suggest that tourism sector generates about 11 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creates 5.5 million jobs every year (WTO, 2002). Being highly labour intensive, the sector provides vital employment for people with a wide range of skills as well as for the unskilled. These numbers themselves are adequate enough to suggest that tourism activities have immense potential to play a significant role in the economic of the countries and regions. In a recent statement World Tourism Organisation (WTO) asserts that “tourism can be harnessed as a significant force for the alleviation of poverty, as well as for the protection of the environment and traditional cultures, attaching economic value to natural and cultural heritage, creating employment and generating foreign exchange earnings” (WTO, 2004).
Is reality that Rosy?
Along with the recognition of being one of the most important economic activities negative impacts of tourism, especially in the developing countries, has given rise to an urgency to formulate new approaches for tourism development. Though a few agencies, such as World Bank and European Union (EU), provide considerable support to tourism-related projects including economic development and employment generation but no agency is, however, truly into developing and implementing strategies linking tourism and poverty elimination (Delliotte and Touche 1999). It has also been recognisd that growth in tourism activities itself is not sufficient for poverty alleviation unless guided by planning efforts that are suited for local level development targeting the poor (DFID 1999).
Conventional tourism activities lead to the dangers of dependency with non-local ownership, enormous pressure on utility and infrastructure supply, surge in price of the commodities, degradation of local art and culture, rise in crime rate, prostitution, spread as diseases such as AIDS among the local communities, large scale environmental degradation, and so on (Mouforth and Munt, 2003). These menaces affect the local community, environment and the society which, finally, severely leading to the tourism industry’s decay in the long run.
There is a global concern about these threats created by “irresponsible” tourism activities. This has led to the emergence of various alternate tourism approaches focusing on specific needs of the society and the environment. Because of the fact that the study on the new forms of tourism is still in its infancy, there are no clear definitions and conceptual and practical boundaries. From the seemingly endless list of new tourism terms, the important ones and front runners which are drawing attention of the tourism advocates and protagonists seek to define themselves in relationship to development and sustainability.
Srisang (1992) suggested that “tourism in the Third World, as it practised today, does not benefit the majority of the people. Instead it exploits them, pollutes the environment, destroy the ecosystem, bastardises the culture, robs people of their traditional values and ways of life and subjugates women and children in the abject slavery of prostitution. In other words, it epitomises the present unjust world economic order where the few who control wealth and power dictate the terms. As such, tourism is little different from colonialism.” Apart from these ills, Third World Tourism is also marked by a huge leakage from the destination. An estimate of the World Bank suggests that 55 % of gross tourism revenue to developing country actually leak back to the developed countries (Boo, 1990). In Nepal, it has been estimated that about 69% of the total expenditure of a mountaineering expedition was spent outside Nepal and only around 1.2% of the total remained in the mountain communities (Kalisch, 2001).
Poorly managed tourism can lead to:
Degradation of heritage sites
Commodification of the sacred
Create a market for prostitution and drugs
Reduce biological diversity
Destroy habitat for wildlife
Pollute lakes
Overuse valuable fresh water resources
Contribute significantly to global warming
Leads to loss of scenic beauty
Reduce the pleasure and satisfaction obtained from an unspoilt environment
Experiences throughout the world suggest that poorly planned and managed tourism that fails to support its environment base, results in falling market share and sows the seeds of its own destruction (APEC 1996). Environmental deterioration will inevitably lead to economic destruction, where the impacts of poorly planned and managed tourism development results in long-term problems that out-weigh the short term benefits that tourism may bring. With the potential for self-destruction achieving a more sustainable option is becoming the most important issue facing tourism.
Paradigm shift in Tourism
The large scale, laissez-faire tourism development that emerged with support from various advocacy platform, has resulted in perceived negative economic, environmental and socio-cultural impacts. In reaction to these negative impacts and inspired by rhetoric of the dependency theorists the “cautionary platform” emerged in 1970s as the dominant paradigm within the tourism studies. Gradually the contradictions of the mass tourism has led to emergence of “alternate tourism” (Dernoi 1981).mass tourism and alternate tourism has been perceived diametrically opposed “ideal types” wherein the former is described as contrived, obtrusive, externally controlled and growth- oriented while the later is authentic, unobtrusive, community-controlled and equilibrium-oriented (Weaver 1991; Clarke 1997).
According to Butler (1993), sustainable tourism could be defined as tourism “which is developed and maintained in an area (community, environment) in such a manner and at such a scale that it remains viable over an indefinite period and does not degrade or alter the environment (human or physical) in which it exists to such a degree that it prohibits the successful development and wellbeing of other activities and processes”. The concept of sustainable tourism is in line with the global trend towards sustainable development. It covers every element of tourism or in other words “all tourism should be sustainable tourism” (Dowling 1993). This intrinsically implies that the tourism industry must ensure that tourist visits will be maintained and tourism resources will retain their attractiveness indefinitely. There must be no (or only minimal) adverse environmental, social and cultural impacts. All these must be achieved through maintaining the principles of sustainable development.
However, most of the alternate forms of tourism are in line with sustainable tourism and oriented more towards environmental conservation with human well being as one of the components. Ecotourism, one of the closest forms of sustainable tourism, is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry, grossing nearly $400 billion a year. An estimate of World Travel and Tourism Council says that it is growing at a rate of 10 to 15% per annum (Drumm and Moore, 2002). Ecotourism focuses on local cultures, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal growth and learning new ways to live in our vulnerable planet. Ecotourism, basically, is one form of responsible tourism and an integrated part of sustainable tourism development, which was declared as a global strategy at the World Summit at Rio De Janeiro in 1992. Similarly, rural tourism, pro-poor tourism etc. are also gaining importance from the scholars and planners as tourism development strategies.
Dimensions of Sustainable Tourism

hunam dimension
Physical and mental health, disease, mortality, fertility and population change. WEALTH
Economy, financial system, income, poverty, inflation, employment, trade, material goods, infrastructure, basic need for food, water and shelter. KNOWLEDGE AND CULTURE
Education, research, state of knowledge, communication, systems of belief and expression. COMMUNITY
Rights and freedoms, governance, institutions, law, peace, crime, civil order. EQUITY
Distribution of benefits and burdens between males and females and among households, ethnic groups, and other social divisions.
Diversity and quality of forests, farmland, and other land ecosystems, including their modification conservation and degradation. WATER
Diversity of quality of inland water and marine ecosystems, including their modification by dams and other structures, pollution and water withdrawal. AIR
Local and indoor air quality and condition of the global atmosphere. SPECIES AND GENES
Status of wild species and wild and domesticated (crop and livestock), populations, genetic diversity. RESOURCE USE
Energy and materials, waste generation and disposal and recycling. Pressures from agriculture, fisheries, timber, mining and other resource sectors.

Tourism and Tourism Policies in India
India has also been experiencing a sharp rise in tourism activities especially during the last couple of decade. Data on tourist visits, foreign exchange earnings, receipt from international tourism in presented in Annex. During the period 1991 to 2005 the foreign tourist arrivals to India has increased by 2.3 times (Figure 1). The foreign exchange earning from tourism activities has gone up from Rs. 4318 crores to Rs. 25172 crores (Figure 2). However, though the above figures indicate marked increase in tourism activities in the country, India is still far behind many of the countries in world tourism map. Receipts from international tourism for the top ten countries of the world and India (Figure 3) clearly suggests that India is no where near these countries. Although India’s performance at the international tourism front is way behind many of the countries, in case of domestic tourism the country has shown significant improvement. The domestic tourism visits has increased from 66 million in 1991 to 382 million in 2005 which shows an increase of about 5.7 times.

The tourism perspective in the country has changed substantially over recent years. The tourism policy of the country has to be viewed in the light of the macro-economic policies of the country that had gone through a new thrust in the 1990s. The first ever tourism policy was announced by the government in November 1982. The major thrust of the policy was on aggressive marketing with an aim to present India as the ultimate destination of holiday resorts to the foreigners.
It took 10 long years to come out with possible improvements over the previous policy and as a result the National Action Plan for Tourism was announced in May 1992. Some legislative and executive measures were of course adapted during these two periods. The national action plan pronounced 7 objectives of the tourism planning as the central concerns of the government:
Socio-economic development of the areas
Increasing employment opportunities
Developing domestic tourism for the budget category
Preserving national heritage and environment
Development of international tourism
Diversification of tourism products
Increase in India’s share in world tourism

The latest tourism policy was announced in 2002 and it envisaged new directions and priorities towards tourism sector development. The key elements of the National Tourism Policy, 2002, are listed below which clearly depict the changing focus of the tourism planning of the country:
Position tourism as a major engine of economic growth
Harness the direct and multiplier effects of tourism for employment generation, economic development and providing impetus to rural tourism.
Focus on both international and domestic tourism
Position India as a global brand to take advantage of the burgeoning global travel and trade and the vast untapped potential of India as a destination.
Acknowledges the critical role of the private sector with government acting as a proactive facilitator and catalyst.
Create and develop integrated tourism circuits based on India’s unique heritage in partnership with States, private sector and other agencies.”
Ensure that the tourist to India gets physically invigorated, mentally rejuvenated, culturally enriched and spiritually elevated. (Ministry of Tourism 2002)

The major shift in focus of the tourism policy in the country can be identified as employment generation and local economic development. The policy statements of the government reveal that tourism has been envisaged as an important instrument for socio-economic development of the local community, particularly, in the rural and backward areas of the country. The role of the government had been envisaged as a catalyst, promoter, facilitator and provider of infrastructure apart from playing the role of the regulator. A well-directed holistic plan can play a crucial role in achieving a two- pronged goal of the government. Along with the development of the local community and generating employment in remote areas, revival of traditional culture (in art and other forms) can be used as an important instrument to attract tourists and in turn generate revenue for the state as well as for the country.
In India tourism has been growing at a rapid pace and has already been established as one of the most important foreign exchange earners (Ministry of Tourism 2003). However, there has been wide spread concern that negative impacts of mass tourism have been destroying the over-exposed tourist resorts. It has been affecting the environment, both physical and cultural, adversely. Another important cause of concern is that the local aboriginal, in general, are still far from reaping the benefit of the tourism activities in a gainful manner. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to device and implement alternate tourism approaches that minimise the negative impacts of tourism as well as integrate economic development of the area ensuring equity amongst people. These strategies should also enable tourism activities to contribute positively towards overall economic development of the area through ensuring development of the local communities along with conservation of the natural and cultural environment (Mukhopadhyay and Pohit 2004).
The Path Forward
Public Private Partnership
Although both enterprises and governments can individually take action to enhance sustainability, working together will achieve much more. The process of collaboration and partnership is a key element of sustainable tourism development. This can be nest done through partnerships involving international bodies, central, state and local governments, travel and tourism companies, NGOs and the voluntary sector (UNCSD 1999a). Public private partnerships are essential to identify mechanisms and action plans to achieve sustainable development goals in tourism. Specific aims of public private partnership include:
Regulatory regime- self-regulation and where necessary this is supplemented with regulation in areas such as land-use and waste management;
Agreed indicators- measuring progress towards achieving sustainable development;
Agreed and widely used certification criteria;
Public funding programmes on marketing and destination development should have sustainable development principles as eligibility criteria;
Research into sustainable tourism needs;
Environmental education and training programme;
Greater investment and use of new technology; and Fair and non-discriminatory taxes with revenue allocated to environmental improvement programmes. (UNCSD 1999 a & b)The achievement of objectives will depend on the quality of the partnership. Therefore, the role of the public and private sector has to be clearly defined to achieve a successful partnership. As per the recommendation of the WTTC, WTO and Earth Council, the public sector initiatives, that includes government departments, national tourism authorities and the trade organisations, should include:
Offering support and assistance in the form of effective legislation where necessary
Developing a coordinating mechanism between government and other stakeholders
Facilitate information exchange between various stakeholders involved in the process
Introducing incentives and awareness programmes to encourage sustainable tourism practices
Ensure the necessary infrastructure requirement such as roads, sewage treatment plants, recycling facilities etc.
Assist the industry to adopt suitable measures for energy and material use reduction, waste minimization, fresh water resource management and waste management.

Similarly the private sector should play its own role towards achievement of the sustainable tourism goals. This includes:
Foster dialogue between individual business and formulate solutions to common problems
Work with the small and micro enterprises to build management skills, market development and technology transfer
Assist government to enabling framework for achieving sustainable tourism
Promote interaction between tourists and host communities and so enhance the industry’s potential to contribute to increased understanding of other cultures
Ensure effective participation of the host communities in the stainable tourism planning process

Research across the countries for sustainable tourism indicates that the development strategy for the same should include the following steps for a sustainable outcome in the tourist destination:
Development of a shared community vision
An audit of natural and cultural assets to determine the significance and state of health of resources.
An evaluation regarding the destination life cycle. Destination life cycle is important because the planning issues to be addressed for the mature destinations are different from the developing destinations.
A review of the relationship that exists between
tourism and the rest of the economy. This includes
whether tourism is currently recognised and is included
in the forward planning undertaken on social,
economic and service infrastructure plans
Infrastructure and product audit including a review of the adequacy of essential service infrastructure such as transport, solid waste management, water and energy availability to meet the future needs of both the local residents as well as the tourists
Scenario planning including forecasts for population, visitors, changing market and consumer trends
Development of environmental benchmarking and certification system

These strategies should also enable tourism activities to contribute positively towards overall economic development of the area through ensuring development of the local communities along with conservation of the natural and cultural environment. A focussed tourism planning around developing sustainability through tourism activities in turn will contribute to develop a win-win for every stakeholder as well for the country.
Boo E. (1990) Ecotourism : Potentials and Pitfalls, Vol. 1and 2, WWF, Baltimore.
Butler, R., 1993. ‘Tourism – an evolutionary perspective’, in Nelson, J., Butler, R., and Wall, G., (eds) Tourism and Sustainable Development: Monitoring, Planning and Managing, Department of Geography, University of Waterloo, Ontario.
Department of Tourism (2001) International Passenger Survey, Ministry of Tourism, New Delhi.
Department of Tourism (2001) Travel Survey 1998, Ministry of Tourism, New Delhi.
DFID (1999) Sustainable Tourism and Poverty Elimination Study, a report submitted by IIED, Deloitte and Touch and ODI to Department of International Development, April 1999.
DFID (2000): Harnessing Tourism for Poverty Elimination: A Blueprint from the Gambia,
Dowling, R. (1993) An Environmental Based Planning Model for Regional Tourism Development. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 1(1).
Drumm A. and Moore A. (2002): An Introduction to Ecotourism Planning, USAID and Nature Conservancy.
Ghimire K. B. (2001) The Native Tourist: Mass Tourism within Developing Countries, Earthscan.
Goodwin H (1994) “Tourism and Local Economic Development”, International Centre for Responsible Tourism, University of Greenwich.
Government of India (2005) Tourism Figures 2005, Department of Tourism.
Hall S. (1992) “The Question of Cultural Identity”, in Hall, Held and T. McGrew eds. Modernity and Future, Polity Press, London.
Kainthal S. (2001) The Nanda Devi Biodiversity Conservation and Ecotourism declaration”, http/
Kalisch A. (2001) Tourism as Fair Trade: NGO Perspectives, Tourism Concern, London.
Meyer D. (2003), Review of the Impacts of Previous Pro-Poor Tourism Research, Overseas Development Institute, London.
Mowford M. and Munt I. (2003) Tourism and Sustainability- Development and New Tourism in the Third World, Routledge, London and New York.
Mukhopadhyay D. and Pohit S. (2004) Ecotourism: A Win-Win Strategy in Business Line, May 27.
Srisang K. (1992) ‘Third World Tourism: The New Colonialism”, Focus, Volume 4.
Straaten J. (1997) Sustainable Tourism and Policy, Department of Leisure Studies, The Netherlands.
Wood M. (2002) Principles, Practices and Policies for Sustainability, UNEP, France.
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World Tourism Organisation (2003) International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism, Djerba, Tunisia, 9-11 April 2003.
WTO (2004) World Tourism Organization Underscores Microcredits”, News Release, 11 August.
Table 1: Foreign Tourists Arrival to India

Year Arrival of Foreign Tourists % change

1991 1.68 –
1992 1.87 11.3
1993 1.76 -5.9
1994 1.89 7.4
1995 2.12 12.2
1996 2.29 8.0
1997 2.37 3.5
1998 2.36 -0.4
1999 2.48 5.1
2000 2.65 6.9
2001 2.54 -4.2
2002 2.38 -6.3
2003 2.73 14.7
2004 3.46 26.7
2005 3.92 13.3

Table 2: India’s Foreign Exchange Earnings

Foreign Exchange Earning % change
1991 4318
1992 5951 37.82
1993 6611 11.09
1994 7129 7.84
1995 8430 18.25
1996 10046 19.17
1997 10511 4.63
1998 12150 15.59
1999 12951 6.59
2000 14238 9.94
2001 14344 0.74
2002 14195 -1.04
2003 16429 15.74
2004 21603 31.49
2005 25172 16.52

Table 3: Receipts from International Tourism Activities, 2005: Top Ten Countries and India

Country Receipts from Tourism Activities Share (in %)
USA 81.68 12.0
Spain 47.89 7.0
France 42.28 6.2
Italy 35.4 5.2
Chaina 29.3 4.3
UK 30.37 4.5
Germany 29.2 4.3
Turkey 18.15 2.7
Austria 15.47 2.3
Greece 13.73 2.0
India 5.73 0.8
Others 332.8 48.8
World 682 100.0

Table 4: Domestic Tourist Visits in India

Year Number of Domestic Tourist Visits Annual Change (in %)
1991 66.7
1992 81.5 22.2
1993 105.8 29.8
1994 127.1 20.1
1995 136.6 7.5
1996 140.1 2.6
1997 159.9 14.1
1998 168.2 5.2
1999 190.7 13.4
2000 220.1 15.4
2001 236.5 7.5
2002 269.6 14.0
2003 309 14.6
2004 366.2 18.5
2005 382.1 4.3

Note: This article was published in India Economic Review in August 2007


5 responses to “Sustainable Tourism and Development: Future Potential for Indian Planning Process

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