Trends and Pathways for Ecotourism Research in India
Tourism is one of the largest economic sectors world over, with a direct contribution of 3.1% to GDP and generating USD 7.6 trillion and 300 million jobs. Tourism related revenues from entry fee alone in 10 national parks in India ranged between USD 7000 to USD 300,000 in 2007-08. In 2012, the erstwhile Planning Commission identified tourism as the second largest provider of employment to low and semi skilled labour with a contribution of 6% to the country’s GDP. The annual growth rate for the tourism industry in India is predicted to be 8.8% between 2011 and 2021 by the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Given the earning potential, the state, the centre and private entities have promoted various forms of nature based tourism around protected areas. However current approaches to nature based tourism (also referred to as ecotourism hereinafter) have offered limited benefits to conservation, protected areas and local communities. The Guidelines for Tourism in and around Protected Areas issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) continue to remain on paper.
India has the potential to become a competitive ecotourism destination due to its abundant natural wealth. There is also a great potential to develop ecotourism in India that ensures socio-economic development of local communities while also conserving its biodiversity. However, limited scientific and management focus to develop ecotourism as a viable approach is a key reason why ecotourism has not been successful in India. Additional scientific research that can assist in the formulation of appropriate legislative policies, consumer awareness, and financial investments are essential in this regard.