Responsible Tourism in Kaziranga
Responsible tourism in Kaziranga will flourish by promoting activities like birding, homestays, volunteer tourism, conservation workshops, etc. These activities help minimize a destination’s negative social, economic, and environmental impacts. Moreover, it generates greater economic benefits for the local economy and enhances the host communities’ well-being. Boosting the skill development of the local youths, encouraging community participation, providing exposure and mentoring support, etc will lead to more responsible tourism in Kaziranga.
Ill effects of mass tourism
Mass Tourism puts enormous pressure on natural resources due to overconsumption, and changes in local land use patterns. It increases pollution, degrades natural habitats, and disturbs endangered species. Mass tourism also dilutes local cultures, traditions, languages and food habits.
For Tourism to flourish in Kaziranga in a sustainable manner the focus should shift from mass tourism to responsible tourism.
Birding Tourism in Kaziranga
Though the signature species of Kaziranga is the pre-historic One-horned Rhinoceros, not many people know that it is home to more than 550 species of birds of which 25 are globally threatened and 21 near threatened species. The fact that it hosts 45 of the 70 species of raptors found in the Indian Subcontinent is itself a testimony of the huge bio-diversity of the place.
Birders are responsible tourists
Birding is a hobby and passion for most people across the world today. The advent of social media has given a huge boost to this activity. Birders and Birding Photographers will travel the extra mile to see and shoot select bird species that Kaziranga has in abundance. They are conscious of the fragility of an ecosystem and are more responsible for their behaviour and actions in the forests than others. Moreover, these segments of tourists spend multiple nights in a destination and are repeat visitors. Promoting Kaziranga as a birding destination will thus contribute hugely to the local economy.
Promoting Homestay for Responsible Tourism
The Kaziranga landscape is a rural economy with a multitude of tribes and communities leaving in harmony, thus presenting an ideal scenario for rural tourism and the proliferation of homestays. Homestays have a special significance in showcasing local culture and traditions to the outside world. It creates opportunities for cultural friendship and intercultural competence, boosts foreign language skills, helps lower carbon footprint, etc.
Community participation for Responsible Tourism
The tourism scenario at Kaziranga largely hinges on Government efforts and a few private initiatives. The burden of heavy investments, lack of exposure and skills dissuades the local community from being active participants. Community participation in tourism is essential for the benefits to percolate down to the grassroots level and be a sustainable product. Thus, promoting responsible and community-based tourism initiatives to ensure that locals can enjoy increased socio-economic benefits and an improved environment is the call of the day.
Skill development of local youths
Though resorts and hotels of many shades and hues dot the Kaziranga landscape, the quality of service except for the larger resorts is not up to the mark. The reason is a severe lack of skilled human resources to cater to the ever-growing tourists. Good customer service relations, communication, adaptability, flexibility, language skills, cultural sensitivity, business acumen, commercial awareness, leadership, responsibility and teamwork are integral to any tourist destination. The Department of Tourism and Skill Development should play a proactive role in improving the skillsets of the local community, especially from the marginalized communities like the Tea Tribes, the Missing Community and the Karbis of the adjoining villages. This will ensure meaningful employment for the locals as well as better services for tourists.
Exposure and Mentoring support
The locals can benefit and learn only with exposure to the outside world and with constant mentoring support. So, tourism in Kaziranga should revolve around respect and dignity for the local communities. Enrichment of visitors’ experiences can happen only if local cultures flourish without any dilution. The focus should be on preserving and enhancing local culture, arts, handicrafts, monuments and other natural and handmade resources. This will lead to a sense of pride and confidence in the local community. At the same time, the local communities should be the lead partner in all stages of responsible tourism development – right from planning, decision making and implementing tourism products so that the developments are in harmony with the priorities of the local communities.
Instilling a sense of pride among the local people
It is a known fact that Kaziranga today has become a pride in the world because of the tremendous contribution and sacrifices of the forefathers of the fringe area people. Unfortunately, the various Wildlife Laws and Acts have impeded the economic freedom of the local people.
While there is no denying the fact that these acts and laws are necessary to ensure the protection of the fragile ecosystem, there should be a proper compensation mechanism for the locals. We should not forget that human beings are the most important constituent in the bio-diversity circle. These acts and laws should augment rather than restrict the livelihood of the local people. After all, conservation success stories across the world are always a joint effort between the authorities and the locals. Only then will the local people will continue to bask in pride in the sacrifices of their forefathers.
Compensation for human-wildlife conflicts
The conflict between human beings and wildlife is an ongoing process where the fringe area people have to bear the brunt. Coupled with various laws in place like NO DEVELOPMENT ZONE, ECO SENSITIVE ZONE, etc, the economic freedom of the locals is severely handicapped. The compensation mechanism in place for such activities is not adequate. The Kaziranga Park management authority along with local pressure groups should pressurize the Government to create a substantive Compensation Fund so that the relief to the affected is prompt and adequate. This will lead to harmony in the local community- the original but unofficial custodians of the park.
Tourism Festivals to promote responsible tourism
Tourism Festivals contribute significantly to the cultural and economic wealth of an area by their impact on the development of various aspects like eco-tourism, culture, village, nature and adventure tourism. The aim is to use natural, historical and cultural themes to conceptualize, develop and implement an annual event to attract visitors. Kaziranga is the perfect destination for such an annual event which will promote responsible tourism.
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