Tribal Tourism: The way forward
Disruption of local economies and land use, offending villagers by being unaware of village etiquettes, are a few major concerns that could be raised while we talk of Tribal Tourism. attempts to gauge the tourism fraternity on how benefits that include in
recent abduction of two Italians by Maoists in Odisha has triggered a major concern among the tourism industry players. This has been a big blow to the tourism industry in the state, says J K Mohanty, President, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Odisha (HRAO). “Restrictions imposed in tribal areas and now the abduction of two Italians has created confusion, sending a wrong message to tour and travel operators around the world, especially in the European Union. We had recently geared up to create a niche in the national map besides focussing on ways to draw a large number of foreign visitors. Now, Odisha Government’s proactive role in brand building and campaign for ‘ Visit Odisha Year’ has got a retreat,” he reveals. The foreign tourist arrivals in 2010 was 50,000 and is expected to register a growth of 10 per cent each year, he adds.
This recent incident has opened up a countrywide debate on whether the Tribal Tourism should be encouraged by the State and Central Governments. Says Siddharth Tripathi, Managing Director, Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation ( JTDC), “To get support in tourism schemes, the government should build up a long-term dialogue process with the tribals and Maoists.” According to the MD, Tribal Tourism is no isolated segment and there is a very thin line between tribal, rural, sustainable and Eco-Tourism. The foreigners in India are looking at Pilgrimage and Experiential Tourism and Tribal Tourism is an indispensable part of the latter segment, he believes.
Tour operators can play a pivotal role in developing Tribal Tourism. Some believe that giving tribal communities a role to play in tourism may resolve the conflict to an extent. He feels, “The unfortunate incident in Odisha should be taken as an aber- ration and this should not discourage tour operators from promoting Tribal Tourism. Maoists don’t oppose us. I have been a forest officer and I used to venture deep into the forests. Despite the fact that I was a government official, I was never targetted by the Maoists.” In a bid to build a comprehensive module for promoting Tribal Tourism, Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation has taken the tribes into confidence. They sell tribal art and the money is put into a village fund for development, Tripathi confirms. The State is only getting three per cent of visitors via the organised B2B segment in India and in the future, it plans to enhance its relationship with the travel fraternity.
According to Harihar Patra, Director - Marketing, Toshali Resorts International, “Tribal Tourism is one of the major revenue earners by the inbound operators of Odisha. It has been hit hard due to the recent incident. For a way forward, we have to look beyond Tribal Tourism. We should focus to such tourism segments, which are not affecting the privacy, culture, etc. The government has directed the tourism fraternity to take permission for operating such tours so that there is remote possibility of tourist security. The stakeholders should involve the local hotels, villages, local community to discuss and involve the district administration to find a formula so that everybody can work in a loop for a win-win situation.”
To offset the negative impact on restrictions on Tribal Tourism in Odisha, the State is looking at promoting Pilgrimage Tourism aggressively, he says. “Buddhist Tourism is a different product and caters to a different segment of tourist vis-a-vis the tribal tourists. The tourists who visit tribal areas most often visit the Buddhist sites as well as they are not too far off from the airport. The Buddhist pilgrimage market has huge potential in Odisha,” he feels. Toshali Resorts has recently in June, joined hands with Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) to promote Buddhist Tourism in Odisha.