Thursday, November 12, 2009


Tourism cannot thrive in isolation


Mahesh Kaul
Tourism is an economic activity that has impact on almost every sphere of human life. It cannot thrive in isolation as it depends on peripheral industries like transportation, accommodation etc. But with the passage of time and the economic boom all over the world, the tourist demand has been affected in many ways as it has made great impact on the disposable income. This has been a blessing for the destinations that have spots of great tourist appeal. The influx of tourists to the destinations areas has solved the problem of the host community to some extent.

But unfortunately the planners and policy makers in majority of the destination areas marketed the destination without taking into consideration the carrying capacity, infrastructure and other parameters like the cultural beliefs of the host populations. It has resulted in conflict between the host and the guest (tourist). But handling of such conflicts to some extent has been manageable.

Another important factor that is posing a serious challenge to the tourism professionals, policy makers and the tourism organisations is the “climate change”. No part of the world is today free from this threat to the environment and hence, tourism. The world climate is today guided by uncertainties. In the present scenario the realties of tourism within the context of global climate change are in terms of its impacts as far as adaptation to it at tourism destinations are concerned and the economic risks of climate change. It leads to tourism “vulnerability hot spots”. Other realities are the implication for the tourism demand at the destination area, impact on the climate as resource for tourism, tourist behavior arising from climate change, impact of the mitigation policies on tourism demand. Emissions from tourism activities, the calculation of emissions from the tourism sector and its mitigation policies have caught the imagination of all the professionals linked with the tourism directly or indirectly.

To meet the challenges posed by the global climate change the United Nations World Tourism Organization(UNWTO) has proposed this years theme for the World Tourism Day as -”Tourism: Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change.” The determination to face this challenge lies in the input from the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism, convened by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), United nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization(WMO) in Davos, Switzerland in 2007, now popularly known as Davos Declaration. The stress has been laid to change habits, position renewable sources of energy, encouraging the tourism stakeholders to adapt, to mitigate and to use new technology. Emphasis is also to secure finance for the poor countries to respond to the climate change.

Davos declaration has helped to identify the following challenges that need to be faced head on as far as the global climate change is concerned:

1) Effective policy making

2) Capacity building

3) Financial Systems to support adaptation and mitigation activities

4) Reduction of knowledge gaps

5) Address vulnerability hot spots

6) Multidisciplinary action

Effective policy making is key to any plan that can be materialized into workable action plan. It needs the inclusion of professionals from various fields that have bearing on tourism product or destination. Capacity building is needed not only in terms of the destination but also in terms of the human resource that are involved in the handling of tourism. It is more or less linked with imparting the adaptation techniques to see threats in terms of climate change as opportunities. For that the scientific methods need to be simplified and not oversimplified so that the adaptation does not loose its luster.

Financial support system is the backbone of any economic activity. The policy of setting up of financial support systems for the adaptation and mitigation activities is based on the policy that the developed countries will not be allowed to discriminate against the developing countries. It has been clearly stated in the Davos declaration that the adaptation to respond to climate change is meant for the developing countries and the mitigation of carbon products is meant for the developed nations.

Reduction of knowledge gaps means that the technical know how should be communicated in effective manner from the experts and scientists to common people in simplified language so that there is no communication barrier. Thus leading transformation to be seen in the destination area in vivid manner.

To address the vulnerability spots is the key area of concern. The attention should be focused on the areas that are prone to natural calamities like tropical storms, heavy rains, floods, drought, coastal erosion etc. so that the adaptability measures are implemented to minimize the adverse effect on the tourism and the tourist activity.

As already said in the beginning- tourism cannot thrive in isolation. It involves the support of various peripheral organizations and fields like transport, railways, airways, waterways, scientific community (like geographers, conservators, conservation architects, historians etc.) Thus integration of these experts and many more is required to develop multidisciplinary action to face the threat of global climate change in order to develop sustainable tourism for better, peaceful and eco-friendly world.

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