Outside/In: Tourism Spoils
There’s a type of travel industry which defines itself as different: ecologically minded, even “responsible.” It’s a type of travel meant to support the conservation of threatened ecosystems. This is not just tourism, but “ecotourism.”
The ecotourism industry is on the rise in the area around the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in northern India, especially since the park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. The list also includes globally recognized locations like Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, and the Galapagos Islands.
Being on the list comes with global recognition, sometimes funding for conservation, and pressure to preserve the site for future generations. Plus, it can contribute to transforming these places into destinations, as tourists in search of authentic travel experiences add UNESCO sites like the GHNP to their itinerary.
Ecotourism is a crucial part of the plan to conserve the GHNP and the larger Tirthan Valley for future generations. From one perspective, the strategy is working: tourism is on the rise, which provides jobs to locals and incentivizes conservation.
But from another perspective, the very thing meant to help conserve the Tirthan Valley might also be one of its biggest threats.
This is the second of two Outside/In episodes about the GHNP. In the first episode, journalist Yardain Amron reported on the conservation strategy – and the controversy – around the creation of the GHNP in the 1980’s and ‘90s.
In this second chapter, Yardain turns to 21st-century ecotourism, and explores just how much the Tirthan Valley is changing. Who profits from tourism based on exploring wilderness? And just how eco-friendly is ecotourism?
Featuring Raju Bharti, Karan Bharti, Dimple Kamra, Upi Kamra, Rosaleen Duffy, Stephan Marchall, Robert Fletcher, Narottam Singh, and a traveler named Nishant.
Translation by Vibha Kumar.