TOFTigers, the nature travel action charity, which recently launched it‘s Good Wildlife Travel Guide to India and Nepal’ is quite hopeful that niche tourism segment in India, mainly wildlife nature tourism, will grow manifold. “The niche tourism segment in India is very small and still very young. It is just 15-16 years old. We are still very small but it is going to be much bigger. However, we need to plan very carefully so that tourism can be sustainable,” Julian Matthews, Chairman, TOFTTigers, said. He opined that parks with both tigers and tourism hold the greatest density of tigers left in India. “We aim to collectively spread best practice tourism and its indirect and direct revenues, help manage visitors and their experiences more effectively, and use eco-tourism’s extraordinary spending power and ability to change local lives and livelihoods to save the forest habitats of India,” he added.
Talking about TOFTigers role on creating awareness about sustainability and tiger tourism, he said, “We got 250 travel companies across the globe including 140 in India. We got about 90 tour operators from the world. There is a supply chain pressure on TOFTigers to make niche tourism responsible and sustainable. We want to make sure that our efforts work towards sustainability of the tourism. We want to work together to make tourism a viable conservation tool. We are working with the Ministry, MoEF and Field Directors to make it more responsible. He added that the charity is trying to educate everybody – visitor, provider, the government, the tourism sector in terms of what tourism can be and what it should be doing.
He suggested placing monetary value on parks that comes close to the cost of maintaining it. “Tourism places a value on a wilderness resource, like no other non-extractive industry. In fact, in South Africa, wilderness tourism is generating US$12 per acre, while agricultural land gets only US$3 per acre per annum. Moreover, South Africa’s national parks are almost paid for by tourism, to the tune of 76 per cent of their annual budget. India’s tourism charges and park fees on the other hand make only a single digit impact on the annual park budgets,” he added.
Responding a question over overcrowding of lodges at Corbett National Park, he said that there needs to be rule, regulator and monitoring mechanism so that sustainability is not compromised. “TOFTigers is the only organisation in India which is monitoring the activities. We need to engage local communities actively in conservation. We need to make local community partners in conservation by educating them about the benefits of conservation,” he added.
TOFTigers’ guide highlights over 220 of India and Nepal’s best and most responsible nature travel providers, best eco-lodges and India’s only luxury cruise ship. From the wilds of Kanha Tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh, to the coffee plantations of Coorg, it covers 22 of India and Nepal’s finest reserves, sanctuaries, cruise ship on Brahmaputra river and areas of outstanding beauty and is the ‘Go To’ guide for travellers who want to go wild on their next adventure.