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Sustainable Tourism & its importance in the context of Nepal

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“Sustainable Development,” the phase is prevailing like no other in this recent time, and if you are familiar with it, then you know, it is our future as well. The concept is quite easy to grasp; it is development without causing any harm to natural resources.

Now, “Sustainable Tourism” is no different than the concept above; it is environment-friendly tourism, meaning it bolsters tourism as well as environment. Also, referred to as “eco-tourism” and “green tourism,” Sustainable Tourism is the current trend and need, if we want to go for long-term.

The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.”

Tourism is one of the biggest industry in the world with tremendous economic outcome and employment. At the same time, tourism revolves around numerous stakeholders and requires a significant amount of resources. With its numerous association, tourism can create negative impacts, if not managed properly.

A properly planned and managed tourism can benefit the development of socio-cultural, environmental and economic aspects, creating opportunities for countries and communities. Well, the need for sustainable tourism is imperative for the industry to survive in the long term.

Sustainable tourism is more than promoting a destination; it emphasis on the greater economic benefits for locals, enhances the well-being of host communities, creating employment opportunities, involving locals in decision making, endeavoring on conservation of natural and cultural heritage and creating communication between tourists and hosts for better cultural understanding.

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM IN NEPAL

Tourism is rooted in Nepal as it is the largest industry there is and provides the largest source of revenue and foreign exchange. Well, with such an influence of tourism, the concept of Sustainability is deemed to exist in this country.

With the enactment of National Park and Wildlife Conservation in 1973, the importance and necessity of ecotourism in Nepal were realized leading to the establishment of various protected area for the conservation of ecosystems and development of the community.

However, it was in 1986, when the establishment of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project encouraged the ecotourism in the tourism industry of Nepal.

Being one of the least developed countries, Nepal can greatly benefit from sustainable tourism that promotes the environment, economy, and society. Mostly visited for mountaineering and trekking, tourists visit the Himayalan region of Nepal where the culture and lifestyle are still far from modernity.

While enjoying the mountain range and natural resources, they also get a chance to know about local culture and way of life. That’s why different areas of Nepal has been developed as a site of sustainable tourism.

There are different villages inside Annapurna Conservation Area, Manaslu Conservation Area, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, Gauri Shanker Conservation Area, Manaslu Conservation Area, Langtang National Park, Chitwan National Park, Panchase region, Kathmandu Valley, Illam, Syangja, and other districts, which are developed as an important site for sustainable tourism in Nepal.

Nepal showcases a wide array of natural and cultural features. There are 1250 heritage sites; wherein the Valley itself has 870 religious and cultural shrines and monuments, eight World Cultural Heritage Sites, two World Natural Heritage sites and yes, of course there are eight out of fourteen tallest mountain in the world lies in Nepal.

All these resources are the major attraction for the foundation and acceleration of the tourism industry in Nepal. Thus, it is important to manage these tourism resources properly involving the local community with sufficient consideration on the quality of the supply side of tourism to attract a large number of tourists from around the world.

Nepal welcomes one of the largest numbers of tourists for trekking and mountaineering in the world. And, this very fact has created many opportunities for rural life with the establishment of guesthouses and lodges along the trail.

Sustainable Tourism is the future of the tourism industry and even the Government of Nepal is endeavoring in this effort. Let us further look into the importance of Sustainable Tourism in the context of Nepal.

IMPORTANCE OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

Economic Sustainability

Sustainable tourism’s one major lookout is economic sustainability. Rather than focusing on extravagant hotels or international brand, sustainable tourism aims to keep the money local. Investing in the big brand and star hotels, the money is likely to leak, and this won’t go for the long term because the “destination” doesn’t see any development, but depletion instead.

Tourism has indeed survived so far without “sustainability,” because it is in the present that tourism reaches its peak, and queries and questions regarding it are getting raised.

Mainly in developing countries like Nepal, sustainable tourism lets promote oneself as a tourism destination with economic benefits.

In 2013, WWF Nepal, together with Government of Nepal, launched the Sustainable Communities Initiative in Amaltari Village, Nawalparasi under Terai Arc Landscape program.

Various interventions like homestay, biogas, community clinic, turmeric enterprises, and women-led micro-enterprises are providing benefits to both forest and river-dependent Amaltari communities. This is not only promoting sustainable tourism but also serving as a major source of income to conserve biodiversity and foster the local economy.

Environment Sustainability

The environment is the major part of tourism; it only makes sense that tourism should heed nature as much as it needs nature. As tourism shares a close relationship with the environment, it has the potential to create beneficial effects on the environment by contributing to environmental protection and conservation. Sustainable tourism emphasizes the importance of the environment and also provides a tool to finance the protection of natural areas.

The fact that overexploitation of environment leading to hazards like increased pollution, soil erosion, loss of natural habitat of wildlife and increases risks of forest fire is nothing but the horrors we are living in. Amid the chaos of these environmental hazards, sustainable environment thrives on protecting and protect the environmental resources.

Taking the example of Amaltari village here as well, the initiative has to lead to the 10% of gross income from community homestay in support of community-based anti-poaching operations, maintaining the wildlife habitat in nearby community forest and waste management program.

As a portion of homestay revenue is contributed to biodiversity conservation and community development, visitors can feel uplifted as they are supporting biodiversity conservation and improving the livelihood of locals.

Further, WWF Nepal and the Government of Nepal are creating an environment to foster the local economy driven by wildlife tourism through community homestay.

Socio-Cultural Development

Tourism effect a great deal on host communities and share both direct and indirect relationship. We cannot measure its influence as they aren’t always apparent. In the context of Nepal itself, we cannot deny the changes in values and moral due to tourism.

Tourism development often brings change in a traditional lifestyle, morality, community structure, and family relationships. However, tourism can be a great positive force to promote pride in culture and tradition and to avoid urban relocation by creating local jobs.

Tharu Community of Chitwan National Park is one perfect example of socio-cultural development through Sustainable Development. Visitors of the park typically stays to witness the unique cultural exhibition of Tharu people; traditional dance (Fire Dance, Peacock Dance, Stick Dance & more), houses made of mud, clay, dung, and grass, medieval lifestyle living in a jungle, hunting, and fishing for daily life.

In Amaltari as well, the Sustainable Tourism initiation supports re-enrolment of drop-out Mushar (low-caste group of Nepal) children in schools and scholarships are provided too.

Thus, it is more than clear that Sustainable tourism could be particularly important in the new local governance if nature-based tourism is prioritized through a community-based tourism approach to building prosperous communities.

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