How to improve tourism in India ?

More and more emphasis is being placed by the national as well as state governments for proper planning in the expanding world of tourism. This is being done to ensure a balance between tourism promotion (as a proven vehicle for increasing the GNP particularly of developing countries) and the concerns for safeguarding the physical, social and cultural environment of the destination areas.

The importance of planning in the development of tourism related activities is aimed at creating a balance between the tourism related activities and the local environment. This is particularly the case in developing countries. Here the impact is strongest because they must develop an infrastructure that preserves the existing unique cultural characteristics and also promotes all-round socio-economic development. At the same time, they should also preserve and enhance their physical environment in order to promote tourism.

Tourism promotion and infrastructural development for tourism related activities is bound to have a series of socio-cultural, socio-economic, physical and environmental impacts on the habitat which would require a systematic evaluation and analysis, using scientific techniques, before development decisions are taken. These are more conspicuous in environmentally sensitive settings of hill, wild life and beach resorts and other traditional culturally sensitive destinations. Any programme for tourism development should thus have the underlying objective of promoting the positive impacts and mitigating the negative impacts on the social, economic and physical environments of the destination areas.

TOURISM PLANNING: THE OVERALL CONTEXT :

The main thrust areas for development of tourism in the National Five Year Plans having implications on Physical Planning for Tourism in macro and micro contexts are identified as under

1) Development of selected tourist circuits and centers which are popular with the tourists I instead of spreading limited resources over a large number of circuits centers.

2) Diversification of tourism in India from the traditional sight-seeing tour centered (primarily places of cultural tourism interest) towards the more rapidly growing tourism market within the framework of country's milieu with a conscious attention to the aesthetic, environmental and socio-cultural implications of tourism projects.

3) Development of non-traditional areas such as a) trekking b) winter sports c) wild life tourism and d) beach resort tourism to exploit the tourism resource of the Himalayas, the vast coastline with sandy beaches and abundant sunshine and wildlife to attract more tourists and to lengthen their period of stay in the country.

4) Restoration and balanced development of national heritage projects of both cultural, historical and tourist importance to exploit advantages of India's unique place as a cultural tourism destination and to utilize tourism as a major force in support of conservation of national heritage.

Planning and development of tourism complexes in their macro and micro dimensions should enable integration of tourism resources and tourist activities to derive the optimum benefits in terms of social, economic and ecological objectives on the one hand and satisfaction of tourists' needs for infrastructure, leisure and recreation on the other. Tourism resources and tourist facilities have their spatial interaction in terms of tourist nodes, areas and networks. Organized development of tourism complexes should be geared to a system of functionalities generated in space, both interdependent and inter-linked to each other, so that in its regional or area-wise context optimization of benefits from investments accrue.

Tourism Development Plans shall need to cater to the diversified demand for infrastructure of a wide variety of tourism activities projected for different typologies of destination areas, keeping environmental conservation in view. Tourism activity areas embrace a wide variety of destination points:

1) Extensive are as of natural scenic beauty for passive recreation,

2) Recreational and leisure areas like beach resorts,

3) Climatic comfort areas like hill resorts,

4) Cultural tourism areas including historical places, monument complexes, places of fairs and festivals,

5) Religious tourism areas like pilgrimage centers and temple towns,

6) Adventure tourism areas namely areas designated for trekking,, rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing, etc., and

7) Special interest areas, namely wild life sanctuaries, areas of exotic flora and fauna, bird sanctuaries, etc.

Carrying Capacity :

Tourism is a resource based industry and resource evaluation is important lo identify areas for resource conservation to promote tourism vis-a-vis other demands. It is also imperative to identify and designate the resource under various competing uses and further to arrive at the capacity which will be matched by the supply location wise and activity wise. The concept of carrying capacity is significant for scientific planning of tourism facilities and infrastructure, particularly in relation to sensitive tourist destination areas like the hill areas. It is the threshold of tourist activity, beyond which facilities are saturated (physical capacity), the environment is degraded (environmental or ecological capacity), or visitor enjoyment is diminished (perceptual or psychological capacity).

These concepts are now generally accepted but difficulties in measuring the thresholds (except perhaps physical capacity) have restricted the use of carrying capacity as a planning tool. A blend of factors determining physical and ecological capacity of recreational areas with those that determine the social (perceptual) capacity, makes it possible to determine optimum capacity guidelines. In nature reserve areas and ecologically sensitive areas namely the hilly environment more reliance has to be given to ecological capacity guidelines and these would need to be formulated with respect to the environment of which the habitat is an integral part. Very often this is ignored because of immediate profit motives of developers. This is not a healthy trend and needs to be curbed.

Evaluating Tourist Resources :

The only sound basis on which any programme of tourism development can be formalized is the complex of natural or man- made attractions that an area can offer to visitors. This resource base is often neglected, or taken for granted without organizing a complex systematic inventory or analyzing its special merits, potential and constraints.

Here, two basic questions arise:

a) how to identify the resource base of an area ? and

b) how to assess the intrinsic value of such resources to their market ?

The first calls for an inventory and the second calls for appropriate evaluating techniques. The resource value in terms of attractions of a tourist resource is a product of demand (tourist preferences, which can be assessed through surveys) and supply (local availability to meet the demand) with minimum social, economic and environmental impact. In this regard, environmental impact studies need to be carried out before undertaking any programme of tourist development.

Infrastructural Development :

If tourism is to effectively function as an integral component of the development package for any region, development of tourist related physical infrastructure becomes imperative. Infrastructure should also be conceived on an integrated basis considering the overall needs of the area and the host population. Imparting an adequate measure of attractiveness to a resort is a vital aspect for development of tourist spot. Broadly speaking, the three main components which collectively impart this quality to the tourist centre could be identified as:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Accommodation Facilities and Services, and
  3. Recreation

i) Accessibility :

Accessibility in the context of a tourist spot or a tourist destination area consists of:

a) Local accessibility to the specific place of tourist interest within the town from the nearest transportation inter-change point namely an airport, a railway station or a roadways terminal, or from the entry point to the town as the case may be. It also means connecting roads from one spot to the other to facilitate easy movement of tourists within the town and its vicinity including adequate parking, servicing and garage facilities.

b) Regional accessibility to the tourist centre and tourist destination area by the three conventional modes of transport namely roads, rail and air from the nearest tourist embarkation point in the country, and transport linkages to other important centers of tourist interest within the region.

ii) Accommodation Facilities and Services:

Provision of adequate accommodation at the tourist centers and destination areas satisfying quantitatively as well as qualitatively, the needs of tourists, is an important factor. Accommodation can sometimes provide the incentives to the tourist for a longer stay. In the present context of India, lack of this basic amenity has even been a greater deterrent to tourist influx compared to "lack of accessibility," The quantum and type of accommodation to be provided at individual centers would again depend on an assessment of needs in each case, but by and large, accommodation for tourists should be comfortable, complete with all utilities and services and built-in infrastructure facilities required for residential development as per the location, and of varying range and choice from economic as well as physical points of view.

Uninterrupted power and safe water supply, sewerage, drainage and sanitation are essential elements of basic utilities and services to be ensured in order to make a tourist complex attractive. Besides, civic services like health clinic, telecommunication, post-telegraph and banking facilities are also considered essential part of tourist infrastructure. However, these aspects vary as per the form of tourism and the location of the destination.

iii) Recreational Aspects:

If availability of accommodation is largely influential in prolonging a tourist's stay, adequate provision of recreational elements at a tourist centre can lengthen the tourist season as a whole. This aspect of development is vitally important for relaxation and diversion. Recreation, in the context of tourism, has many manifestations, and includes, apart from organized outdoor active and passive recreation, all forms of commercial recreation as well. The problem in the context of metropolitan and major cities is simplified to some extent as' the tourists can draw upon such recreational facilities, both indoors and outdoors, which form legitimate requirements of the local population. However, in case of smaller palaces, which may be of even larger tourist interest and attraction, exclusive recreational amenities are to be provided for the tourists. But this has to be done keeping in view the socio-cultural milieu and environment at the destination.

In addition to the primary elements of tourist infrastructure, "ancillary infrastructure facilities and services" are considered vital for comprehensive development of a tourist centre. These largely consist of facilities for growth of traditional and indigenous arts and crafts, and cottage industries of tourist interest along with ancillary facilities namely housing for artisans and craftsmen engaged in such activities with land earmarked for such uses. Facilities for housing and ancillary requirements of the "service population" needed to man the service and tourist facilities and amenities is a vital factor. Ignoring this aspect can result in the creation of slums with inhuman living conditions.

TOURISM MASTER PLAN :

In all countries of the world where a systematic approach to tourism development has been a part of the national policy, emphasis has been given on formulation of Tourism Master Plan for development of tourist infrastructure. This has been conditioned by several factors. Some of these are as following:

1) Positive and negative factors which have influenced or may influence proper exploitation of the particular tourist resource.

2) Carrying capacity of particular resource for tourism development in relation to environmental and ecological impacts as well as socio-cultural impacts of tourism development programme at macro and micro levels.

3) Problems relating to financing and management of access and infrastructure provision.

In Corsica, designation of favorable zones for tourist infrastructure, identification of important natural and man-made resource areas and their designation for protection, and provision of Access and Land Control Policy for development in and around the designated area, are important components of an overall Tourism Master Plan. Such a policy plan at a macro level shall guide programme planning at micro levels.

In regard to coastal tourism development in France, the Master Plan lays emphasis on:

a) Tourism development organized generally perpendicular to the coast in the hinterland of existing resorts, and

b) Creation of extended sectors of environmental protection which are designated as protected forests, natural reserves, agriculture and forestry land to provide ecological conservation.

In all these exercises, environmental protection and conservation of tourism resource and natural endowments have been the key factors.

In any case, the importance of Physical Development Plan as the key component of the overall Tourism Master Plan at both macro and micro levels can hardly be over-emphasized.

At macro level a comprehensive Master Plan for tourism development should consist of:

  1. Recommended policies and priorities for tourism and recreation,
  2. Programme of infrastructural development,
  3. Physical plan detailing location of areas to be developed, conserved and protected and in what manner,
  4. Strategy for implementation, coordination and financing,
  5. Evaluation of resulting ecological as well as socio-economic impacts and their resolutions,
  6. Action programmers, and mechanism of monitoring the changes and their effects.

For regulating, reducing or restricting the pressure on a resource of a finite capacity like a popular tourist centre, hill resort or a beach complex which are exposed to incompatible uses, the basic development policy should consist of:

  1. restricting access,
  2. Limiting facilities,
  3. zoning the various activities spatially,
  4. Scheduling activities, and
  5. Developing alternative destinations.

As a first step towards formulation of a Master Plan, it would be necessary to conduct surveys, (both intensive and extensive) of the tourist resource characteristics and potential. These should be analyzed in relation to physical, social, economic and environmental attributes of the destination area. The basic framework for developing the Tourism Master Plan for planning, development and management of tourism destination areas is established through:

  1. Synthesis of the resources and their optimal exploitation for tourism purposes, and
  2. An analysis of projected tourist flow.

The physical component of the Master Plan would establish a framework for spatial organisation of tourist facilities and infrastructure, accessibility and linkages, both internal and external, of various parts of the tourism activity area and zonation of major recreational and open spaces as an integrated open space system.

Measures and programmers for environmental protection, landscaping, site development are important components of such a Master Plan. Besides, linkages of the complex with the surrounding hinterland as well as measures to control development along the periphery of the complex should also be spelt out.

It is also imperative to consider appropriate planning measures to integrate the tourism complex development with the surrounding smaller settlements whose socio-economic development is linked with the tourism activities concentrated in the complex.

These policies and programmes are to be detailed out and concretized through an integrated Physical Development Plan for phased development of the complex and provision for tourism infrastructure.

Physical Development Issues :

Development of tourism is not entirely a matter of economics as it has implications on geography, sociology, anthropology and ecology of the area and its people. All these need to be thoroughly understood and analyzed for optimum socio-economic gains to the host community and the area of tourist activity. It calls for a comprehensive approach to tourism planning, particularly in the areas where products are made up of vulnerable resources which are renewable.

Tourist spots and destination areas are points of high congregation of people and have to be provided with safe and convenient access, parking facilities, pedestrian movement and congregation spaces, tourist infrastructure facilities for boarding and lodging, civic services, tourist shopping, leisure and recreational activities depending on the location, attractiveness and projected tourist demand for such facilities. Obviously, provision of individual facilities and the scale of tourist infrastructure shall vary from place to place. However, in all cases, all these infrastructure facilities shall have to be spatially organized in relation to the tourist spot proper and functional relationships between them are also needed through proper physical planning and design.

Tourism related activities are by nature land-extensive, whether the tourist spot is part of a town development area or is located in isolation in the form of a complex, or is a township by itself, as a tourist resort. Emphasis should be laid on integrated development of the tourist centre as a whole, and each individual development scheme for various tourist spots should be conceived as a part of the larger Town Plan or Area Plan. In this context, it should also be emphasized that in the case of metropolitan and major cities, tourist requirements, particularly in the field of infrastructural facilities, could be met substantially from those already available and provided for in the plans for these cities.

But in small towns and isolated locations, infrastructural facilities and services, which have to be provided for tourists, should be so arranged spatially as to enable them to be used by local population as well by appropriate extension and augmentation. As a result, investment in such locations on tourism could largely benefit the all round growth and development of the small towns where the tourist spots are located. Further, the Development Scheme should be implemented in appropriate phases. It should be so conceived as to allow for augmentation and expansion in the future.

Tourist Spots Within the City :

Zonation of a tourism activity area is an important first step. In case of tourist spots located within the city, it is necessary to zone such spots along with sufficient area around them as . Tourism Activity Zone or Special Areas. In a city, which- has a number of such tourist spots, j(e.g. historical cities and pilgrimage towns) efforts need to be made to identify even larger integrated zones encompassing several spots in one complex to enable integrated approach to physical development. In such cases, tourism infrastructure planning and physical Development of individual tourist spots should be conceived within the framework of overall tourism development plan.

The tourism development plan should cover:

  1. Accessibility and linkages to various tourists spots as part of the city network,
  2. Internal circulation based on limited vehicular accessibility and predominantly pedestrian oriented,
  3. Zonation of land around each spot for locating required tourist infrastructure facilities, as well as
  4. Ensuring through suitable zoning regulations as far as possible that high intensity development does not come up in the vicinity.

An important underlying concept should be to maintain the identity and sanctity of the tourist spot through zoning of passive uses in its immediate environs. Within the designated site for tourist infrastructure development, the basic considerations should be that the tourist spot proper should stand out and not get engulfed by infrastructure facilities. To enable this, internal spatial organization of the designated site should be so conceived that the infrastructure complex is directly accessible from the main access road, leaving sufficiently wide green reservations between tourist spot and the infrastructure complex.

It is, therefore, necessary to provide for a low profile development within the designated site. It is also not desirable to spread infrastructure facilities over a large area but to plan all the facilities as a complex for better servicing in terms of utility and efficiency, leaving majority of the designated site for developing as green spaces.

Conservation Through Design :

Conservation in the context of tourist centers includes preservation of their "tourist character" and this aspect is more vital in the case of small towns which as a whole are tourist attractions on account of their heritage and historical importance. Physical expansion as also economic diversification of such towns should be so planned that their heritage and historical sanctity is maintained physically. This could be done by keeping sufficient green buffer zones around them and the new development, in the larger interests of tourism promotion.

Physical conservation in a tourist spot may be manifested in a general beautification and renovation of the tourist spot to make it look brighter and attractive with well laid out gardens, pavements and tourist equipments, namely tourist literature, guides, curio shops, kiosks, etc. While this is a matter which deserves utmost restraint, design consciousness and sensitivity, emphasis should be more on preservation and conservation rather than resorting to large-scale renovation and beautification.

Conservation of the existing natural features in site development, particularly for tourism related activity zones, is important for maintaining the attraction for tourists. In addition, generous planting of trees according to a properly designated landscape plan should be an integral part of the site development programme. Within the portion of the site designated for the infrastructure facilities, a low rise development should be stipulated along with basic design controls for buildings.

Spatial Design Aspects :

The primary objective of a physical development scheme for a tourist spot or a tourist centre is to attract the tourists. For this visual design aspects and aesthetic considerations play an important role in their formulation and implementation. This pertains to laying out an approach road, landscaping, renovation and general beautification, or provision of residential accommodation for tourists.

Physical planning for tourist spots and complexes therefore, should attempt to synthesize basic land and infrastructure planning principles with Urban Form and Landscape Design parameters so that emerging development is functional and environmentally compatible, as well as visually and aesthetically attractive.

For individual spots of tourist interest, or a group of them, a Spatial Design Composition needs to be conceptualized. This should be in relation to physical characteristics of the tourist site and environs. Such an effort enables a rational development of the site as well as and optimal exploitation of the Tourist Resource.

The basic principle should be to arrange and locate all tourist infrastructure facilities off the visual axis to the monument. Similar principle can be adopted in larger complexes, by conceptualizing an overall Spatial Design Composition within which individual spots of tourist interest can be treated as part of the overall composition. In exclusive tourism areas of 'scenic beauty', view-points can be identified for similar design treatment as landmarks and points of maximum attraction, within an overall Planning and Designing Scheme for the designated area. If the above elements are considered then definitely Tourism industry is going to increase in India.