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Is the destination ready for tourism?

Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India Source: The Indian Express

When tourism development in a particular geographical region is discussed, planners often talk about numbers and potential of tourism growth in the region. As the number of tourists increases, local community, authorities and government in some cases, get involved to create service provision for these tourists. But often the capacity and readiness of the region are overlooked by the planners and tourists. Such efforts accelerate the tourism growth but it also accelerates the impacts of tourism on the region. This lack of planning triggers countless issues that region and community have to face on daily basis.

Though the region might have some unique offerings of nature and culture, it may not be necessarily prepared for such a big transition. Spiti Valley, the remote cold desert in Himachal Pradesh, can be an example to explain this better. In the snow leopard landscape of Spiti Valley, provisioning services contributed significantly to the livelihoods of the local population. According to results of a study conducted in 2017 in this region, 90% of the population relies on nature for its livelihood. In this dry temperate, high altitude region with minimal rainfall, the community has been practicing agriculture as their main livelihood. Glaciers are their only source of water for agriculture and household activities. Environmental degradation has been leading to negative occurrences in the region such as flash flood, low rainfall, melting glaciers, landslides etc.

But at the same time, the valley is emerging as a popular tourist destination. To cater to these growing demand, tourism practitioners started building infrastructure, arranging tours and creating other service provisions. The outcome is that these limited resources get shared between community and tourists. Once the peak season is over, communities are hardly left with any resources to sustain. Though tourism is bringing good economic benefit to the region, how sustainable is this economic growth?

Considering readiness of the region in terms of the resources is one of the most important factor that has to be considered in tourism planning. Potential of the destination or success of tourism does not always depend on the growing numbers, but also the readiness of the region.

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