Assam is is a region with a vibrant landscape, brooks and streams, countless species of animals and plants, melodious folk music, and handlooms and handicrafts. This green landscape has been a source of attraction for a large number of tourists (Haloi & Barman, 2010). Due to the growth in tourism in this state, ecotourism activities have boomed in recent years with efforts from the state government and non-governmental organisations. Ecotourism is a source of empowerment as it provides an alternative source of sustainable livelihood (Kiper, 2013).
The previous article explored the role of ecotourism in Assam and determined that majorly ecotourism helps in generating new employment possibilities, creating ecological awareness, and deriving economic benefit for the country.
Ecotourism projects ability of empowerment
Empowerment is the process of skill sets, knowledge, and abilities development with the objective of exploiting the available information so that control over the situation can be attained (Skagen et al; 2006). India’s tourism industry contributes 6.23% to the national GDP and 8.78% to employment (Baruah, 2020).
With an estimated growth metrics of 10-15%, ecotourism is the fastest-growing market for environmental conservation (Scheyvens, 1999). However, one of the basic aspects of ecotourism is a community-based approach for enhancing local communities quality of life. The case of Phuket and AoPhangnga depicts that the encouragement of community-based ecotourism resulted in creating social, economic, and political empowerment (Kontogeorgopoulos, 2010). This is shown in the figure below.
Along with the economic impact, ecotourism also helps the economy socially by reducing the existing inequality between men and women. For example; in Meghalaya, an increase in income from ecotourism helped in improving women status along with empowering them to become less dependent on men (Cabral & Dhar, 2019).
How ecotourism is empowering Assam?
Assam is famous for its culture and hospitality. It witnesses constant government initiatives towards providing accommodations for tourists. These initiatives directly create opportunities for the local communities for employment along with indirect benefits availed through ecotourism development (Chettri, 2004). Many projects were undertaken in different ecotourism places like the endogenous tourism project at Sualkuchi, Assam. It promotes activities for rural development. These activities helped in rural infrastructural development and capacity enhancement of local communities for training, building institutions, providing exposure, and networking with tourism management. By including a large number of unemployed people like 70% in this project, there are more empowerment opportunities for the people, especially the women (Kalita, 2010).
Mayong village of Morigaon district in Assam started the Pobitora village Eco camp in 2015. With an investment of only Rs. 7000, Mr Champak Deka provided cottage facilities to eco-tourists and even showed them around Pobitora. Today the project consists of 5 well-developed cottages made of bamboo and woods and provides employment to 10 people (Choudhury, 2019).
Ecotourism’s many benefits include transportation and communication facilities, creation of jobs, enhancement of medical services, the establishment of educational institutions, and improvement of infrastructural facilities. Ecotourism majorly contributed towards empowering the local communities of Assam.
With the rise in awareness about the environment, economies have moved towards the promotion of nature-based activities. Ecotourism is one such means to not only helps to conserve the wildlife but also derive social and economic benefit by empowering local communities. Tourism has always been the source of direct and indirect employment. However, ecotourism not just creates job possibilities but through training and building a relationship between individuals, helps in empowering them. Proving the money gaining possibility, the ecotourism concept supports the development of local areas economically which involves usage of manpower and providing a means to earn a livelihood.
However, there is a cost associated with the growth of ecotourism. For instance, wildlife hunting or poaching have grown due to a lack of regulations or security. This requires a substantial investment for the prevention of such activities. Further, a rise in tourism could impose more environmental costs than empowerment opportunities.
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