Wildlife tourism is the fastest and largest growing service industry that comes with great opportunities to grow and get quick returns. Merging the economic aspect with sustainability, this sector aims to meet “sustainable development goals”. Not just that, it is also a way to protect biodiversity while involving local communities and offering them fair chances of earning livelihoods.
India’s incredibly rich wildlife consists of 350 mammals, 1200+ birds, and around 600 reptiles and amphibians, along with an impressive diversity of plants. The wildlife tourism is one of the very few industries that can cover major concerns of the nation altogether. It has an ecologically low footprint, helps in conservation of wildernesses and offers employment opportunities to large numbers of locals, just like Dudhwa National Park and Tiger Reserve does.
Just like every coin has two sides, the nature-based tourism has some threats. The forests, wildlife and biodiversity face a consistent threat of hunting, poaching, and lack of funding for conservation and protection. The increasing competition and race of making money leave the poor residents with low-paid jobs.
But as the time is changing, the industries are evolving too. The main focus of wildlife tourism has been jotted down in three points. The wildlife tourism must:
- Be subservient to wildlife conservation.
- Help consolidate and expand wildlife habitats.
- Benefit local communities.
Sustainable wildlife tourism provides better earning opportunities for rural communities, mainly through jobs related to revenue-sharing, co-management of resources, and tourism. The idea is to involve these communities to create a win-win situation where they get direct benefits from protecting and conserving the wildlife.
Wildlife Tourism Impacts Rural Development
It works like a chain reaction where every amount spent in the tourism generates a multiplier effect in the rest of the economic chain, ultimately benefitting the remote communities, farmers, artisans and craft people. This chain reaction enables the rural communities and contributes to their growth in the bigger market.
Wildlife tourism can also generate conservation funds by increasing the value of the environment and wildlife. Like policies to conserve tigers and endemic plant species have emerged from the economic value they have generated.
As we know, tourism also supports reviving the cultural heritage, its management, funding, and protection. The funding is generated by the entrance tickets, guides, and souvenirs and increases the value of the intangible cultural heritage such as music and performing arts.
Surprisingly, women form an essential and core part of tourism in many major countries. Their participation is itself empowering and a leading example of India’s industrial progress.
This is what sustainable wildlife tourism aims to achieve while ensuring development and natural resource protection by providing better jobs and improved competitiveness, sustainability, and inclusion of the local communities.
Impacts of Sustainable Wildlife Tourism
We saw how tourism acts as a catalyst for the development of rural communities and empowers them by stimulating investments in infrastructure and livelihood opportunities in rural areas.
The multiplier effect of tourism which we saw above, can be seen directly or indirectly.
- Direct impacts of tourism can be seen in tourist transactions with suppliers and managers such as entrance fees, recreation, transportation, hiring tourist guide, food and shopping/souvenirs, etc. Volunteers and donations can also be included.
- Indirect benefits occur when these tourism managers and suppliers transact with a wider supply chain of goods and services. This ultimately creates employment in fields like farming, food production, and retail.
Other direct, indirect and induced impacts generated through wildlife-related tourism enterprisescan be seen:
- Lodging and accommodation services for wildlife tourists
- Self-guided wildlife-viewing routes like safaris, bird-watching, etc.
- Site viewing and other recreations offered by guides or tour operators
- Information and interpretation sites, including museums, visitor centres, and interactive installations
- Projects and nature-oriented volunteering programs
- Academic and research programs
- Construction of adventure-themed infrastructure like nature trails, canopy walkways, etc.
- Paid residential classes and lectures based on interests like painting, wildlife photography, botany, etc.
- Merchandising, especially for iconic species like tigers
- Hosting events that incorporate wildlife tourism experiences
The sustainability of wildlife tourism is successful when the local communities don’t face exclusion and receive fair benefits. The communities living adjacent to protected areas are dependent for their basic amenities like firewood, and animal grazing. Wildlense works on the same principles and offers exciting packages for tourists to spend quality holidays in India.