Eco Tourism   

By Govind Kumar



Serene natural habitats  are glorious in their pristine purity. They are marketed and this is known as Eco Tourism, a branch of International Tourism. Nature and her superb beauty  are  highlighted and Tourism without damaging Nature is encouraged.

Natural Philosophy, championed by Goethe and others, point out that Nature is the main efficient cause. While God is still invisible, the only visible manifestation is Nature.

I follow two philosophers this way
It was Nature, Nature, all I heard them say !  

( The Faust - Goethe )

Aimed to provide awareness to the tourists about the wisdom of Nature and the protective functions of the forests, Eco Tourism is educational in nature.

The guide and the tourist visit the naturally beauteous areas for understanding the cultural and natural history of environment, but taking care not to change or alter the integrity of the ecosystem. At the same
time, this safe tourism provides economic opportunities to the local inhabitants, who also join in the Green Conservation Movement !

It can also be defined as environmentally conscious tourism and not a search of pristine locations  It has to be sustainable with the continous capacity to safeguard natural environment, which is the base of tourist attraction. Maintain and provide the quality of the satisfaction of the tourists , thus benefiting the locals in the area.

There are many number of definitions of Ecotourism, each highlighting different aspects. It is to be noted that different parameters emerged in common to all eco tourism developmental initiatives.

Eco Tourism may be defined as that

Which is based on Nature
Where interpretation and education are important components
Which is sustainable ecologically
Which benefits the local people.

If any of these components are not satisfied, such a venture cannot be
classified as an Eco Tourism venture !

So Eco Tourism is Green Tourism. Tourism, without well thought out plans and managed programs, can mean thedestruction of the natural habitat. Also the cultural shock concomitant with interaction with various cultures can also put the locals in danger. Stipulation of certain standards and awareness campaigns amongst tour operators and travel agents reduces considerably this impact. Eco Tourism, therefore, is considered as a solution to tourism related environmental problems.

The region of the Western Ghats of Kerala, with its tropical forest ecocystem, provides the natural advantage for this division of International Tourism. In order to develop the immense potential of Kerala Tourism, our tourism products diversification is essential. Hence Western Ghats can be projected as the Eco Tourism Zone of Kerala. Eco Tourism adumbrates the concept of sustainability in Tourism. Future generatoins are protected, as the needs of the now a day visitor is transformed with Green Education !

The Present Situation

The major tourism destinations can be classified as beaches, wild life sanctuaries, backwaters, hill stations, and festivals which represent culture.  Kerala will have to upgrade her products and provide infrastructural 
facilities, if she is to benefit from the boom in the travel and tourism industry.

There is no system at present through which the public can see the forest and have a lasting quality experience. The visits to sanctuary, which is widely practised now, cannot be called as ecotourism. It is only mass tourism to a sanctuary. A more concentrated strategy, which is small group oriented  and supply driven  is the need of the hour. Since Spiritual Tourism is gaining ground in Kerala due to Amma, Eco Tourism also can rise in the highly educated state. Heath, Medical, Ayurvedic and Dental Tourism is also on the rise and Eco Tourism is here to stay !
Those in charge should provide education ( travel and tourism courses) and provision for learning process for the tourists, as Tourism needs close monitoring in an ecologically sensitive area. Students who study for travel and tourism courses should impart the knowledge of Kerala Heritages to the tourists and visitors. It is imperative that Tourism be ecologically sustainable. The economic  benefit should benefit the locals to ensure sustainability.