ECOTOURISM AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN KERALA: SOME EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE

Manoj P K, Vidya Viswanath
International Journal of Business and Administration Research Review   unpublished
Worldwide governments have recognized tourism as a sector with immense potential for economic development and employment generation. Besides, various international agencies like World Tourism Organization (WTO) have pointed out the vast developmental potential of tourism, particularly with reference to the developing nations like India. It has been estimated that economies like India and China would emerge as the superpowers in world tourism by the years 2020. Of late, Asia Pacific region is
more » ... acific region is fast growing in tourism though the region as a whole has been rather lagging behind the world. Similarly, India has also been late in encouraging tourism as a means of economic development, but the scenario has changed since the early 2000s. Accordingly, in the year 2006 the foreign tourists arrivals in India (4.45 million) have been almost double that of 1996 (2.29 million), while the earnings have increased almost four times during the above period, from Rs. 10,046 Crore to Rs. 39,025 Crore. Further, in line with the above increasing trend these figures have again improved in 2007 to 5.08 million (14.3 percent increase) and Rs.44,360 Crore (13.7 percent increase). Within the Indian union too, though Kerala in particular, the 'God's own Country', has got an enviable resource-base for tourism development, its current status among the various Indian states is not very encouraging and is lagging behind many other states with much lesser tourism potential. In spite of the wide recognition of the vast developmental potential of tourism and hence the appreciable growth in tourism initiatives the world over, however, there are growing apprehensions regarding the sustainability of tourism as a development paradigm. This in turn is primarily because of the adverse impacts of tourism on the environment and as such it is growingly believed that environment friendly tourism (ecotourism, in short) alone can be sustainable for development in the long run. In the above context, this paper seeks to (i) make a cursory review of the current status of global tourism and its broad trends and patterns, with special reference to the growingly significant concept of ecotourism, (ii) make an overall study of Indian tourism and its problems and prospects, (iii) make a detailed analysis of Kerala tourism, its salient features, strengths and weaknesses, and lastly (iv) suggest eco-friendly strategies for sustainable tourism development in Kerala. The paper considers, inter alia, relevant global and Indian experiences, ever-growing environmental issues relating to tourism, and above all the peculiar socio-economic, geographic and such other characteristic features peculiar to Kerala tourism. Key Terms: Tourism Vision 2020, Ecotourism, Sustainability. GENESIS Word over, particularly among the developing nations, tourism is fast picking up as a tool for economic development and employment generation. However, the question as to the long-term sustainability of tourism is increasingly becoming a challenge for all concerned, because of the adverse effects of tourism on the environment. As such there is a growing significance for environment-friendly tourism (ecotourism) initiatives for long-term sustainability. The case of tourism in the Asia-Pacific region in general and India in particular may be taken as a classic example in this regard. Notwithstanding the appreciable performance of Indian tourism over the last few years, it's relative performance vis-à-vis other nations of the world is not so encouraging. Analogously, though Kerala tourism has got an enviable potential for growth its relative position among the Indian states is quite small, in spite of appreciable growth over the last few years. In this regard, it may be stated that meticulously planned, carefully designed and clearly articulated strategies are essential to maintain and further improve the performance of tourism sector in the days to come. These strategies for tourism development in turn need to be formulated based on sound principles of ecotourism, for ensuring their long term sustainability. ANALYTICAL SIGNIFICANCE The potential of tourism for economic development is quite promising for any developing nation and the position of India is no exception in this regard. Though India has been late in recognizing the developmental potential of tourism, of late there is appreciable growth in tourism development and hence tourism earnings. But its position nowhere in comparison with the rest of the world. Analogously, the specific case of Kerala -the "God's own Country' -within Indian union is characterized by
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