Ethical tourism in India

Ethical Tourism in India Background
Rationale
Pilot Project
Project Design
Potential Users
The Construction Technology
Potential Benefits
Information Technology 




Background

The present development paradigm has resulted in a development that is both jobless and rootless. With the heavy winds of globalisation blowing to promote market economy, we experience more and more unemployment, loss of livelihood and destruction of economies and cultures.

This process invariably dislodges local people in rural communities and pushes them to migrate more and more to the urban centres in search of a job (often in vain). The gap between the periphery and the centre ‘the local and the global' keeps growing while the urban centres suffer from their own problems - be it environmental pollution or ethnic conflicts. Thus, this process of a faceless, rootless, jobless development ultimately creates unsustainable societies. This problem is part of the bigger problem of a planet seriously experiencing the limits to growth.

It is therefore very urgently felt that we need to reverse this trend in order to promote a people-centred and culture-based sustainable development. This concern was already reflected, for example, in the Brunt Land Report that we have to learn to live sustainably if we are to survive as a species. World leaders, at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, expressed a commitment to programmes (focussing on a shift from high consumption lifestyles) that will move humanity to sustainability in the 21st century.
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Rationale

Tourism has become a big industry and is, to a large extent, controlled by some of the world’s largest multinational corporations. The argument by any government for tourism is obviously that it provides jobs and foreign exchange. But the benefits are not always what they seem. There is hardly any realisation that tourism development seriously damages local cultures, local environment and that the local people find it very hard to fight the problems they experience with tourism. Women in parts of India have to walk for miles to fetch water because hotels siphon off the underground water in order to keep their swimming pools brimful and poor people are not allowed on to their ancestral lands to graze their cattle when a national park is developed to attract tourists.

With ‘ethical business’ being the new buzzword in the new political arena, ‘ethical tourism’, ‘green tourism’, ‘alternative tourism’ or ‘Eco-tourism’ is something that is getting more and more attention. Many affluent tourists are now starting to adopt an ethical stance. There is a growing reaction to the uncaring 80s (and early 90s) and an increase in the demand from tourists for holidays that both protect the local environment and benefit the local people more.

Fundamental changes are needed in the way governments plan tourism and support it; the way tour operators operate tourism, and the way local people are involved in and benefit from it. Tourism, as a source of income, has to move away from the commercial corporate world (that threatens local people, culture and the environment so badly) to enhance the local quality of life.

It is proposed to develop an alternative tourism through this project, which is conceptualised in a framework where the local community not only provides tourists with eco-friendly accommodation and subsistence, but also provides them with culture-based recreation and entertainment. The tourists participate not only in the process of driving the local economy but also in regenerating the local culture. Thus, it is truly participative tourism, where tourists do not come across just as outsiders, but come to be integrated with the local culture and people. The host and the guest are interlocked, as equal partners, in this culture-based development process. The tourists not only bring a lot of their experiences, skills and expertise to contribute to local growth but also go back home with a lot more experience and satisfaction as cultural ambassadors. It is a project where the global does not destroy the local, but recreates and strengthens the local. The global and the local create a synergy for the total.
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The Pilot Project

Interlock integrated ethical-tourism project designed to link rural and urban communities, as well as tourists and existing communities.

The Interlock Millennium Pilot project, is being implemented through a partnership between village groups in Rajapur taluka of Ratnagiri Dist Maharashtra India and Interlock (UK); and aims to promote such an alternative development strategy that is geared to promote rural development by re-creating sustainable local economies and culture through a culture based ethical-tourism project.

This culture based ethical-tourism project aims to achieve the following broad goals:
  • Promoting local economies and local livelihood systems.
  • Promoting regeneration of local culture and heritage.
  • Creating opportunities in villages for migrants to return to their villages, while at the same time arresting further migration to urban centres.
  • Promoting development education, inter-cultural understanding and solidarity between Eco-tourists and the local people, ultimately leading to stronger and healthier people-to-people development co-operation supplementing the government-to-government co-operation.
  • Eco-village training centres and outreach programmes which offer the potential of further developing and informing on the shift from high consumption lifestyles to a more satisfying high quality, but low environmental impact lifestyles and social structures.
  • Development of sustainable technologies (e.g. recycling, renewable energy, etc.) and fair trade as a prerequisite for the sustainability of the project.
  • Youth activities and Ladies Clubs.
  • International Farmers Initiatives
  • To provide funding for HIV/Aids detection and prevention programmes.
  • Linking and networking with the other similar innovative Eco-tourism/Eco-village groups and organisations as a strategy to offer a broad range of choices to the Eco-tourist in the chain of world-wide Eco-tourist points, but also to build up a global Eco-tourist movement through local initiatives.
  • The establishment of telecentres – an integrated project
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Project Design

The above objectives are being realised by developing important centres on the Konkan coast of the Maharashtra state. One on the coast at Kombe in the Rajpur taluka and two at Kondvadi and Vadad Hasol by the main Bombay Goa trunk road in the Ratnagiri district. (An area surrounded by hills and forests and inhabited mostly by tribal people with their rich cultural/distinct heritage).

Two community centres and Guest rooms have been constructed in the sites at Kombe and Kondwadi the buildings include a community hall where local festivals and weddings and other community events can be held, With the guest rooms for visitors and paying guests. The other site at Vadad Hasol is for the Shanti Van Interlock complex.

It is estimated that the facilities will provide sufficient income to finance the running costs and maintenance of the projecst thus enabling it to be self-sufficient and free from outside funds in less than three years.

See appendix for detail location.
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Potential Users

There are a growing number of environmentally and socially aware people of all ages and they would be interested in the projects together with the 50+ group.

At the moment the 50+ age group in Europe in particular and in the North in general, is a vast resource area. People in this age group are part of a socially aware and caring generation, and will certainly feel attracted to this project. Such a vast resource area available to support this initiative is at the moment untapped. By becoming involved in this project, they would be using their resources for enjoyment, whilst at the same time, making a difference in their lives and those who are less fortunate. In effect, it is tourism with a valuable object - leisure with a purpose.

If the poor and deprived sections in India are marginalized and excluded from the mainstream, the population in this (50+) age group in the Westerners consumerist, disposable society also feels discarded, purposeless and apathetic. The project seeks to bring these two groups together through a process of ‘inter-locking’ to create enormous possibilities for a development process (with a built-in mechanism for sustainability) based on sharing and caring, linking person-to-person for a value-based and enriched quality of life at both ends. This age group has the potential to become the facilitators for the Interlock program; they can be the living link to the virtual

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The Construction Technology

The conventional method of building in urban and semi-urban areas today is a very wasteful system using energy intensive materials and methods of designing which multiply costs unnecessarily. Structures are usually highly over-designed. The Eco-tourist guesthouses are designed to use the minimum amount of material to its maximum effect. Use of locally available material and appropriate technology will greatly reduce on extraneous costs such as transportation, energy, labour and time. Effort will be made so that the Eco-tourist properties serve as a living example to the surrounding areas and influence people who come to the project on Eco-friendly, energy-conscious yet beautiful designs of architecture. Thus, through a spin-off effect, a large amount of energy and waste of material can be saved.

The buildings would all be designed to be comfortable in the hot and humid climate of the area, so that there is a minimum cost on mechanical devices for cooling and lighting the interior. The buildings will be of exposed brick and locally available stone surface so as to reduce costs on finishing. Detailing of each building would be considered in such a way as to allow for minimum and easy maintenance whilst ensuring long life.

The entire design attitude is environment and cost conscious, and seeks to blend the buildings harmoniously with nature, climate and topography of the area with minimum expenditure on energy intensive materials towards the product of low cost, eco-friendly structures.

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Potential Benefits of The Project

It is visualised that the project will have a number of short-term and long-term benefits for the local people and communities. The immediate short-term benefits will be the creation of employment opportunities in the areas, beginning with the preparatory construction works of the project. A number of people from the surrounding villages (both men and women) who have migrated to the nearby urban centres in Bombay, Goa and Bangalore are employed in construction work - mostly in the informal sector. The project will strive towards a return-migration of these people by creating similar opportunities in the locality. It is expected that through different kinds of work (e.g. earthwork, masonry, carpentry, plumbing, mechanics, etc.) the number of people who will migrate back from the urban centres will be around 500. Quite a few of them will subsequently stay on with the project for the maintenance.

Apart from that, the inflow of tourists will give a boost to the local economy, and especially so by promoting rural craft, secondary trade, artisans, etc., as well as by generating income for people who could make a living on performing folk art (folk singers, dancers, theatre artists, painters, etc.) thereby preserving local and folk culture. Many of these people now struggle very hard to make a living in the urban centres especially competing with the mass media. These migrants will find a wonderful opportunity to return back home to their villages and will derive a sense of cultural enrichment and satisfaction by showing their performance to an appreciative audience. 

Another very important element in this project is the developmental use of the proceeds. The project will reap financial returns as ethical-tourists, and other environmentalists/development activists come and stay in the resorts. The extra profit, beyond the amount needed for the maintenance/running costs of the project, will be used to support the different rural development activities (e.g. projects to promote income generation, natural resources management, literacy, health, drinking water, etc.).

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Information Technology

It is visualised that this project will expand in the long run to offer fair trade by linking the local producers in this locality to the local consumers abroad, by establishing telecenters, equipped with internet access, phone and fax, in each village school.

This will avoid the unnecessary intermediates in the long trade channels, which take away the lion’s share in the whole business, the local producer will get a fair sum for his products and the consumer will have the satisfaction of buying a product in a trading process that treats the people and the environment well. This ethical trade will immensely stimulate the local economies which will motivate people to migrate back to their villages for a better and more promising livelihood, while at the same time, prevent any further migration from the neighbouring villages to urban centres.

Innovation is needed to adapt technology to the needs of the world’s poorest and remotest communities and regions. These telecentres can be used for training doctors, paramedics, nurses, etc. in rural areas, bringing educational materials to schools, disseminating information on crop management and setting up trade points for the local people to sell products on the internet.

Ways forward must be found to ensure that the telecentres are not mere demonstration projects that collapse when the funds are exhausted or key people depart. To that end, Interlock plans to turn the telecentres into viable business models, which bring affordable mobile telephone facilities to rural communities by providing affordable low-cost facilities.

Village artisans could benefit from being able to check current market prices on the internet, cutting out middlemen who buy at low prices and sell at a large profit to urban populations. The use of digital cameras will enable local craftspeople to use the telecentre as an e-commerce site, to display and sell their products over the internet.

By ‘Interlocking’ ethical-tourism and the internet, local people and tourists will benefit. New technology will also help to narrow the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, giving new purpose and meaning to the lives of people from both divides.

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