Evaluating Ecotourism in Mountain Areas: A Study of Three Himalayan Destinations

In IRES Vol.6 No.1
Peer-reviewed Article

This paper addresses two prime concerns in ecotourism: defining ecotourism, and identifying indicators of ecotourism to facilitate operationalizing and evaluating the concept at a particular location. Based on a literature review, the following indicators are identified: impacts of ecotourism on the natural environment, its contribution to the local economy and conservation, the extent of participation of the host community, and its capacity to educate the stakeholders. Using the indicators, the study evaluates the sustainability of nature tourism in three destinations in the Kufri-Chail-Naldehra area of Himachal Pradesh, India. Primary data is used from surveys with tourists, tourism industry operators, host communities, representatives of local self-government institutions, and local development officers in the area. It is concluded that in its present form, tourism in the study area does not meet the criteria for true ecotourism. However, forging stronger links between local agricultural and other producers and the tourism industry, diversification of tourist accommodations and services in line with tourist demand, marketing of the destinations, education of the local people, and, particularly, more involvement of the community in tourism planning, could unlock significant potential for developing ecotourism that brings substantial economic benefits to the community and promotes environmental protection.

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Author:
Ravinder N. Batta
Date: