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Friday, 19 January, 2001, 13:34 GMT
Tourism: opportunity or exploitation?

From the beaches of Goa to the mountains of Nepal, hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to South Asia each year.

This explosion in the tourist industry across the region has fundamentally changed the way of life of local communities.

Critics are concerned that tourism is not an opportunity for development in the region and may even be detrimental to traditional cultures and the environment.

Is tourism a golden opportunity for South Asia or a means of exploitation? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Many tourists have contributed towards an understanding of the world's regions and have worked as bridges over cultural gaps. Vasco de Gama, Marco Polo, Columbus or a modern tourist travelling in the East - all are contributing something towards an understanding of our neighbours on this planet. Host countries should be proud that the people of the world find their country interesting and beautiful. Besides these tourists are paid guests. They are also ambassadors of love and trust from their own countries.
Agha Ata, USA


In Thailand, British, German and other tourists already behave in a manner that offends local sensibilities

Rustam Roy, London, UK
On a recent visit to Goa, I was astonished to see indigenous Indian tourists treated as second-class tourists, purely because their spending potential does not compare favourably with the converted sums of money that even poorly paid foreigners seem able to deliver in Indian Rupees. In Thailand, British, German and other tourists already behave in a manner that offends local sensibilities, with the local Thais powerless to do anything about it. It is time that developing countries thought long-term and more countries used policies such as those found in the Maldives to control mass tourism.
Rustam Roy, London, UK

Tourism has worked in two ways in Pakistan, especially in valley of Kalash. While those people are reaping the benefits of foreign money, on the other hand they are losing their cultural heritage of Kafir tribes. The Pakistani North has been polluted as tourism has grown in last few decades.
Ahmad Moatesim, Pakistan/ USA

Bearing in mind our religious sentiments and culture, I think we need more family and organised group tourism.
Wajid Iqbal, Kashmir


If the related authorities do not invest the earnings in the local areas, tourism will really be exploitation of the locals

Ajay Das, Kathmandu, Nepal
The South Asian countries are blessed abundantly with natural beauties but the instability in the political scenario plagues the tourism industry in this reigon. The South Asian countries come up with solidarity to boost the tourism industry in the region. If the related authorities do not invest the earnings in the local areas, tourism will really be exploitation of the locals. Nepal and other countries of the region cherish the tradition of 'Atithi Devo Bhava'(guests are gods). All we need is to protect the natural beauty of the region and develop the locals rather than to think of merely making money from the so-called tourism industry.
Ajay Das, Kathmandu, Nepal

Tourism is an industry and just like any industry it has to be regulated to be beneficial to all - the tourists, the places they visit and the employees of tourism-based industries. Entire countries thrive on tourist based industries - but the infrastructure needs to support it. At present the only reason why people visit South Asia is that it is cheap (relative to other countries), drugs are freely available and when it's 20 below zero everywhere else the sun shines hotter than a furnace in some of these places. I'd definitely like to see better infrastructure, better service and more money going back into preservation of some of these spots (Taj Mahal, the tiger reserves, Himalayas etc.).
Kazim Algosaibi, USA


Tourism is definitely a rich way to introduce to foreigners the culture what South Asia has to offer

Raja Dutta, USA
Tourism is definitely a rich way to introduce to foreigners the culture what South Asia has to offer. Till a few years ago, Westeners really did not know what was out there. Today, more and more tourists are visiting South Asia. For some, it's a beautiful experience while for others, they just can't wait to get back home to their country because the infrastructure is not a plus point in South Asia. I think, the infrastructure needs to be made better and the whole of South Asia would benefit from it. After all, if the dollars come in, I think it would be a boon in disguise.
Raja Dutta, USA

Tourism is good for the local economy but tourists have to be more responsible for not leaving behind scars of their visit especially on the environment and indigenous culture.
Narinder Dogra, US

Tourism for the troubled countries in South Asia must be discouraged. Countries such as Sri Lanka are spending their revenue they get from tourism to suppress the minority community, who are fighting for their own rights.
Merwyn, UK

I think Pakistan should not remain conservative while it is dealing with tourism. For tourists, everything they want must be provided so that they enjoy rather than fear to spend their vacations here, as is the case in Muslim Turkey.
Serkan, Turkey


The nature of tourism today always makes the foreigner a tourist and never a visitor

Ajay Nityananda, India
Most people tend to think of tourism in economic terms. Few think of it in sociological or environmental terms. But tourism is far more complex. It is an issue of ideological and phenomenological difference. It creates strange new paradigms of human interaction. Why do you think celebrities are flying in to view the Kumbh Mela? Is this a circus or a spiritual event? Can immortality still be attained if Madonna is taking your photograph as you try? The nature of tourism today always makes the foreigner a tourist and never a visitor. And this has important consequences.
Ajay Nityananda, India

Tourism should not be seen as an immediate opportunity, it should be the last resort to boost the local economy. It is senseless to give emphasis on tourism when there is other means of improving the local economy. It is self degradation to survive on money thrown out by those vacationers who are mostly looking for all kinds of pleasure when you can work and earn your living by doing some resource oriented economic activities.
Birbal Chungkham, US

Tourism can be good and bring about a lot of positive change. However there has to be a semi-decent structure in place to deal with the negative effects it could have on the environment. Pakistan for sure doesn't have anything like that in place, however, Pakistan could learn from India's experience, and try to develop something that encourages distribution of wealth to the local population whilst not harming or disturbing the environment too much. If Mr Alipervaiz has ever been to Turkey he would know that it is far, far from being an Islamic nation, and that sort of ideology, where modernisation means westernisation is not the kind of path Pakistan should take. Modernisation doesn't meant westernisation or losing your culture and roots they way many Turkish people have. Turkey is no longer a 'model' state for Pakistan. If there ever was such a thing. Pakistan should work closer with India in issues of cultural preservation, and development especially if tourism is to be developed.
Yaseen, Bermuda/UK/Pakistan


Tourism is good for any country

Alvipervaiz, USA
Turkey, another Islamic country, has greatly benefited from its tourist industry and certainly could be a model for Pakistan. Tourism is good for any country. It promotes development, mutual understanding and goodwill among mankind. If a society has its values and culture based on solid foundations and truth, it need not worry about the outside influences.
Alvipervaiz, USA

I think more tourism will be a boost to the sagging South Asian economies, especially those that originally showed remarkable growth but then slowed down. There will always be drawbacks but they will have to be manoeuvred around.
Amodha, Sri Lanka

The only tourism I welcome is where hotels are set up by local people in the area with government aid (financial and management) so that it really does benefit the local people. Otherwise, there will be no benefit at all. Only the pollution of the locals' minds and culture.
Krishan Canagasabey, Ceylon, Tamil


South Asian governments should co-operate with each other and take a regional approach to develop this industry

Harsha Kumarawadu, Sri Lanka/ Japan
Although South Asia is blessed with natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage, the region has also earned a reputation for instability and poor infrastructure. South Asian governments should co-operate with each other and take a regional approach to develop this industry. Like any other industry, tourism could have a negative impact on the local culture and environment. However, if it is developed after careful planning these negative impacts could be avoided.
Harsha Kumarawadu, Sri Lanka/ Japan

Goa attracts a large number of foreign as well as domestic tourists. If people have a mindset similar to Goa then tourism is bound to flourish all over the country. But with tourism comes drugs and other wrong activities. It is a package deal for any tourism place. There should be a process in which we can actively curb these illegal activities and also care for the comfort and independence of the tourists.
Rama Rao, India/ USA

It is part of the ancient Indian culture and tradition to extend athithi sathkar (hospitality to guests). That is slowly, surely and inevitably being eroded by the commercial exploitation of the tourism industry by both host and guests. Most of the tourists are not sensitive enough to appreciate the turmoil they create by their intrusion into a society holding vastly different beliefs, values and attitudes.
Mohansingh, India

Tourism definitely has a lot to offer the countries of Southeast Asia. However, a lack of infrastructure and the hassling of tourists as soon as they step off the "tour bus" discourages those who aren't willing to tough it out.
A. Rastogi, USA/ India

Having been to Goa twice, I can say that the only people benefiting from tourism are the big hotels and tour companies. I didn't see any evidence of wealth being created for the locals.
Arvind, UK


Cultural change is inevitable, tourism or no tourism

Dr Adam Nayyar, Pakistan/ USA
Cultural change is inevitable, tourism or no tourism. This is really a non-issue purveyed by people who don't want villagers to turn a decent profit from tourists. The Swiss are doing quite well with tourism and the Alps, thank you very much. The Himalaya-Karakorum ranges have the highest mountains in the world and South Asia could do equally well. All we need is an adequate infrastructure and regulatory legislation in place. Nepal is certainly the leader in this.
Dr Adam Nayyar, Pakistan/ USA

Change is the essence of life. If tourism has some contribution it has to be welcomed. It is not only the host that changes but the tourist benefits from the change as well. As for the environmentalist, the less said the better. Who knows tourism might even spurn the local communities to improve the environment? Remember they are all human and are entitled to their share of pollution and its prevention!
Vinod Dawda, UK

Tourism can be greatly beneficial for the local community IF managed properly by the authorities. Income can be used for the improvement and development of the local area, e.g. roads. If there are no controls, then it is exploitation.
Benares, UK

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See also:

11 Dec 00 | South Asia
Nepal protest over tourist charges
18 Oct 00 | South Asia
Goa shuns backpackers
10 Apr 00 | South Asia
India opens up Himalaya peaks
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