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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.
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.
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.
Bearing in mind our religious sentiments and culture, I think we need more family and organised group tourism.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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