Quality tourism environment for all

The theme for this year World Tourism Day is “Tourism for All- Promoting Universal Accessibility” This is in conformation of one of the codes of ethics for tourism which stands for the equal opportunities for everyone that allows everybody to participate in tourism irrespective of their respective inabilities be that physical, financial or social. However, this raises a question on the feasibility of operationalizing tourism for all when it is well recognised that tourism phenomenon is embedded with both positive and negative implications on all the types of environment- physical, social, cultural and economic.
As per UNWTO “Tourism for All” refers to creating and developing tourism in a manner that everybody gets the right and opportunity to participate in it in a manner that socially no one should be left out to experience the positive implications of tourism which maps with the socio-sustainability. It, however, seems that UNWTO overlooked the adversities of tourism which are adverse enough that “Tourism can kill Tourism” if it is poorly envisaged with dearth of monitoring measures at different stages of controlling function of management of this huge business affair which has capacity of generating international receipts of US $ 1.4 trillion anually. This huge economic potential of tourism has made it an apple of eye for everybody who is at the helm of affairs. Yes, this is true that the very nature of tourism is to make you rich but what is overlooked is its equally powerful capacity in creating threat to the ecological balance and socio-cultural profile of the society which can eventually destabilise societies.
The detrimental features of tourism decisions which are taken hurriedly without the insight of tourism phenomenon raise a question mark on this year’s UNWTO theme of Tourism for All- promoting universal accessibility. If one creates an imaginary of “Tourism for All” it means increase footfalls that is focusing on numbers and so there by creating more facilities i.e. fulfilling infrastructural requirements but the big question is how far it is good to understand tourism with narrow logic of being only increasing numbers to become only a money minting machine. This logic has been responsible for the myopic vision of the people at the helm of affairs who are bereft of the insight that tourism has a very sensitive relation with its environment (physical, social, cultural and economic). The sensitivity of the relationship is due to its unique characteristics which need to be understood keeping in mind that tourism business is unlike other businesses be that manufacturing or services. Tourism has a unique feature that the buyer has to go always to the place of production of tourism product for its final consumption. This uniqueness of tourism business sets it apart from rest of the businesses and it is this unique feature which should make the policy makers extra cautious in their decisions.
The imperative need of the buyers or tourists for mobility to tourism destinations creates interaction of the tourists to not only with the people of the destination but also to all the types of environments (physical, socio, cultural, economic). The interactions and the tourism being primarily dependent on environment of the destination create a deep relationship between the tourists and environment. This relationship alike any other relationship can be long lasting only if the sense of responsibility is shared by both the players be that tourists towards the environment or environment towards the tourists.
Now the question arises, who among the various players in tourism holds the steering wheel for maintaining the relation and to drive tourism in right and sustainable direction? The answer is government or the one who holds the power to take and implement decisions of the nature of tourism that should be developed in a particular area. Government policy makers owe the maximum responsibility as it can make others to conform to the sensible behaviour through regulatory and legal measures. Though everybody on the ethical grounds is responsible towards environment but if the accountability is to be set for the decisions at macro level then the decision makers or people at power due to their position of authority holds all the responsibility and accountability in case anything goes good or bad to the ecology, culture , society and economy.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy is majorly based on tourism. The nature of the topography and the cultural landscapes of the three regions namely Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh render the natural reasons of the types of tourism to be developed in each region. For instance, Jammu has pilgrimage tourism, Kashmir has resort tourism and Ladakh has adventure tourism. However, the people at power centres steers to influence the approach or nature of tourism development which makes tourism development either sustainable i.e. meeting the needs of present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs; or unsustainable i.e. implementing unfair means, illogical reasoning of increasing facilities for the increasing footfalls or numbers.
On the World Tourism Day, an earnest request is made to people at power to take into consideration the unique feature of tourism phenomenon as discussed before be that for Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine and other pilgrimage destinations, natural resorts, adventure and cultural destinations of Jammu and Kashmir while adopting an approach which is more focused on “Quality Tourism Environment for All” rather than “Tourism for All”.