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

TravTalk - India - - Analysis - MEGHA PAUL

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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.

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