Tourism in Ladakh, India written by: williatkins
Sustainable tourism at any given time can only be achieved through effective management of resources and systems that contribute to expansion of tourism sector. The World Tourism Organization considers tourism to be sustainable if it is able to meet the needs of present tourists and at the same time protect and enhance the future ecosystem to provide attraction centers and spots in the future. The organization affirms that tourism must be able to meet, maintain and fulfill economic, social and cultural integrity and biological diversity for complete sustainability.
In Ladakh India, Hemis National Park is found in mountainous region and is very important to the local community as it forms a perfect community based eco-tourism to the locals. The community has developed a strong connection with the Park in the essence that the community has benefited a lot from it. The park has been of great help to the locals for reducing poverty levels and improving livelihoods. The community tends to enjoy their local culture and heritage and benefit greatly from tourism products and developments which include conservation measures and strategies to care for the environment.
In 2001, Hemis National Park in partnership with Snow Leopard Conservancy, the Mountain Institute, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), started a programme that ensured the communities around the park benefited from eco-tourism. The goal of the programme is to empower the local communities and see to it that they are the highest beneficiaries of the programme. Through conservation of the endangered Snow Leopard by building on existing income generating activities, the programme ensured the community gained directly from this intervention.
The programme diversified its group interventions to give a chance to the local community to interact with tourists and in so doing benefit directly from them. Women cooperatives in Ladakh were taken through intensive training to offer them skills and know how to interact and interrelate with tourists for the greater good of the community. They were trained on how to provide traditional Himalayan accommodation popularly known as home stays for tourists to
sleep and take a rest while on a tour of the Park. Training and support was also provided to women to set up small restaurants that tourists would enjoy variety of Indian Delicacies and traditional meals during their tour. Here the locals benefited from gifts and payment of services they offer to the tourists. This enhanced a great mutual benefit and understanding between the community and the tourists.
The programme went further to put great emphasis on environmental friendly services which include effective waste and energy management measures. It emphasized use of natural gas instead of firewood for cooking, sale of pressure boiled water to reduce use of plastics and the community was also supplied with subsidized water heaters and solar cookers for a loan to help conserve the environment. Men and women were also trained to be village based nature guides where they take tourists for a walk along the park or for a hike in the mountains.
The eco-tourism was considered a thrilling programme for the tourists, the community and the park management as it provided a distinctive mutual benefit. The community improved their economic well being and conserved their cultural heritage. Tourists benefited from accommodation, food and being guided across the mountains and the park. With ecosystem management being the prior point of these programme, it got its fare share of the cake through environmental conservancy measures.