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Sustainable Tourism Can Be An Effective Driver To Positive Change

Dr. Kelly Bricker is a Professor and Director of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism at the University of Utah, located in the College of Health. Passionate about eco-tourism, she applauds the work of community at the Kaziranga National Park. Here she shares with us – invaluable insights into the promising yet challenging world of tourism sustainability

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Tourism can help a destination, the environment and local communities and at the same time degrade and devastate areas and destinations. Ecotourism is one important tool to conserve and improve the quality of life for local people. Dr Bricker finds ways to utilize the economic power of tourism to effect positive change.

So out of her many previous visits to India, this one is very special. “2017 is the year of the U.S.-India Travel and Tourism Partnership and also the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. So The US Consulate has brought me to speak with universities, forest and tourism departments, schools, eco-tourism stakeholders in India on the development of this sector, and discuss opportunities to promote sustainable tourism globally,” says Bricker who was recently in the capital.

As the perception of sustainable tourism and ecotourism has changed with time, it is critical to look at the assets that make ecotourism sustainable. At the same time it is important to be accountable for our natural cultural heritage, and how to preserve and protect it. “From setting up principles and following them, it’s time for us to take action and get into measuring water, waste and electricity and how to minimise our footprint on a destination and maximise its benefits. It’s time now to become technical and get down to details. There is a lot of transformation and this is due to the climate change happening all over the world and hence, we are able to define the concept with some critical changes.”

Talking about sustainable tourism, Dr Bricker points out the challenges involved in the development of sustainable tourism versus protection and conservation. “There is a lack of focus with every new administration within the cities like extreme development and short-sighted individuals or conservationists. At times, infrastructure can be challenging in some of the states. Climate change is a big challenge and global problem now. One should adopt ways to elevate the society to a level of having a quality of life. Poverty, climate, conservation of green spaces are a few big challenges in the US, India and in many developing countries.”

Dr Bricker gives key insights as a sustainable tourism advisor, an academic, and from her involvement with The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) to place conservation of tourism as priority. “Tourism should have heritage preservation and the communities should be benefitted through the supply chain by providing laundry services, vegetables, transportation and if the communities are better off, the environment is better off, so it’s interconnected. It’s a systematic approach to development and tourism can be an effective driver to change if considered with a strategic approach,” she says.

As an academician, Dr Bricker teaches her students about land abuse and climate change, strategies important for the tourism industry, social and cultural aspects of tourism and how do you incorporate and decide on tourism development. “I teach mannerism and visitor courtesy, guidelines to protect people, how to live in such destinations. How do you recirculate dollars so that communities thrive and what is the role of the government, airlines, tour operators in the sector? It’s a complex thing with a whole lot of mess of services to create an experience and one needs to learn all the aspects as part of the curriculum.”

In terms of Dr Bricker’s engagement with India, she is bringing awareness by meeting the directors of various Indian institutes, bringing in a couple of projects like white water rafting, conducting research with eco-lodge owners in order to evaluate and introduce some measures in India.

“What I would love to see is a conference on sustainable tourism in India. The idea is to connect such likeminded people and work towards sustainable tourism in India.”

As an educationist, Dr Bricker advises young entrepreneurs to focus and preserve the world-class assets and sustain them for a lifetime.

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