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Sustainable Tourism: UNESCSO's Plan for India

Yang, Minja is the Director and Representative, UNESCO, Delhi

Partners   :

Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Indian Rail, Ministry of Urban Planning; Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, State Governments concerned and UNESCO

Location   :

All India (pilot scheme to be launched in selected States)


Summary description:

This partnership between the Ministries of Tourism, Culture and the Environment of the Union and State Governments of India and UNESCO aims to develop a Heritage passport and a sustainable heritage-based tourism label to be designated to hotels, guesthouses and restaurants willing to accept the Charter for Local Development through Heritage to be developed jointly by the partner institutions.

During the pilot phase of two years (2006-2007) the following activities will be undertaken:

  1. Develop a draft “Heritage Passport” and draft “Heritage Itinerary” (eg. World Heritage; Buddhist Route; Route of Faiths; Bird watching; Crafts Itinerary, Performing Arts, etc, to be determined with the State Authorities.

  2. Develop the draft “Charter for Local Development through Heritage Tourism” (tentative title to incorporate water-harvesting and proper waste-water treatment, sensitive architecture and interior design of hotels and other facilities, commitment to continuing on-the-job education, etc);

  3. Organize a national workshop gathering the stakeholders (central and state ministers and administrators concerned, representatives of hotel and restaurant industry, and tourism sector, independent guides and other operators) before end March 2006.

  4. Develop feasibility study for “labelled” facilities along 2-3 demonstration itineraries.

  5. Launch student competition for architectural design concepts for hotel/inn of 20-30 rooms in 3 different regions of India, inspired by regional/local architectural features.

  6. Organise an “Investors’ Forum” to promote the Heritage Passport itineraries.

  7. Develop a prototype distance education material for quality heritage tourism in partnership with a State Open University (eg. Modules on hotel management, interior decoration, quality guiding for heritage tourism, quality cooking, environment friendly construction and maintenance of hotels and restaurants, improving hygiene for tourism, etc)

  8. Develop a model Heritage Passport train (eg. Train wagons with improved comfort, heritage sensitive decoration, learning centres in the train equipped with mini-library, etc.)


Background and Justification:

The tourism industry has been recognized under the 10th National Development Plan as one of the important economic sectors of India with great potential for further growth. An estimated 367 million domestic tourists and some 3.5 million international visitors travelled for pleasure within and to India in 2004, generating an estimated Rs. 32.9 crores.

In view of the growing middle class in India, and in the Asia region as a whole, India as a destination for domestic, regional and international tourism is far from being fully exploited. But even the relatively modest increase of tourism over the past ten years has already manifested social, economic and environmental ills, which need to be addressed if tourism is to be further promoted for employment generation and local development.

Apart from the view top-end hotels and restaurants catering only for the rich, the facilities for the domestic and international middle-class tourists and student tourists are of a very low standard, making India one of the most expensive destinations in cost/quality terms. Moreover, the ill-designed hotels and tourist shops mushrooming in the key destinations have contributed to undermining the built and natural environment of these special places whose serenity and surrounding areas need to be protected against uncontrolled growth.

Obstacles to tourism development in India are multiple, including inadequate infrastructure of roads, water, sewage and electricity networks, access to good medical services etc which would require considerable capital investments in the years to come. However, despite these shortcomings, the tourism sector would increase considerably if the tourist experience can be improved through better services which can be ensured by the training of personnel.

Promoting Rail-based Tourism

India enjoys one of the most extensive railway system in the world which can be used as the backbone for in-country tourism travel. Whilst Heritage Train is already promoted, as witnessed by the success of the Palace on Wheels, rail-based tourism is not as successful.

As the Indian Tourism Ministries website cities, “…Long winding track through plane, mountain range, tall and engulfing jungle, and dark tunnels…Taking you through thousands of villages, towns and miles of agricultural field, Indian Rail introduces you tens of languages hundreds of dialects, varied culture, yet one friendly smile that is so much part of Indian hospitality. Wide range of architecture will surprise you, mountain music will haunt you, desert will entice you… your cruise through land of India will leave a mystical and enduring impression…”

The Heritage Passport Programme aims therefore, to complement and support the national tourism strategy of promoting India’s numerous and varied tourism experiences linked to the themes already posted in the website, namely:

Angling & Fishing; Rock Climbing; Skiing; Bungee Jumping; Wildlife, etc, and to introduce the visitors to the creative skills of India, such as: Basketry; Jewellery; Kutchcraft; Painting; Pottery; music and the varied festivals of this great country of cultural diversity and biodiversity.



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