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ABVIMAS and Ecotourism

Today many different types and definitions of ecotourism exist, however The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) give the following definition which has been widely accepted: "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." This means that travelers must think and act responsibly in all aspects of their holiday experience in order to minimise their impacts on the environment and local community. In addition, ecotour companies must hold principles and practices that seek to either preserve conserve the environment and wildlife whilst protecting and empowering the local people.

The following principles should be followed by everyone who implements and participates in ecotourism activities:

:: Minimize impact
:: Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
:: Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
:: Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
:: Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
:: Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and     social climate
:: Support international human rights and labor agreements

Further Ecotourism Activities being promoted by ABVIMAS

Agro-tourism
This concept is a direct expansion of ecotourism, which encourages visitors to experience agricultural life at first hand. This type of tourism is gathering strong support from small communities as rural people have realised the benefits of sustainable development brought about by similar forms of "green tourism". Visitors have the opportunity to work in the fields alongside real farmers and wade knee-deep in the sea with fishermen hauling in their nets.

Eco-Tourism Project
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Community based Tourism
The aims are to enable participation from the local community in the development and operations of tourism with their consent and support. Another important feature is that a reasonable share of the revenues are enjoyed by the community. This type of tourism also maintains and respects the local culture, heritage and traditions. Often, community-based tourism actually reinforces and sometimes rescues these. Community-based tourism also implies respect and concern for the natural heritage, particularly where the environment is one of the attractions.

Nature Tourism
This interlinks with ecotourism however it concentrates more on enjoying and respecting the wildlife and the environment without the educational element present in ecotourism.

Pro-poor Tourism
This type of tourism is set up in developing countries as a means to improve the local economy for local people. It enhances the linkages between tourism businesses and poor people, so that poverty is reduced and poor people are able to participate more effectively in tourism development. The aims of pro-poor ranges from increasing local employment to involving local people in the decision making process. Any type of company can be involved such as a small lodge or a tour operator. The most important factor is not the type of company or the type of tourism, but that poor people receive an increase in the net benefits from tourism.

Nature has always attracted human beings for various purposes. As our lives grow more and more hectic, warm winds usher in the summer holiday season, daydreams inevitably turn to vacation scenes. Whether it be to isolated beaches, tall mountain peaks, or the bright lights of a big city the idea of leaving everyday life behind and "getting away from it all" is a siren's song more and more of us find irresistible. With bags packed and tickets purchased we are traveling to the far corners of the world, making tourism the world's fastest growing industry. And then we are introduced to the word “Eco”.

The buzzword of the major industries of the world is “Eco”. We have ecofriendly products, Eco Tourism, Eco camps, Eco Travel; Eco societies.anything to do with the environment is a hot topic in the twentyfirst century. You will find various companies claming to be Ecotour operators, without even realizing the meaning of the word ecotourism. And as the pressures of urban living increase more of these intrepid travelers are seeking pristine natural and cultural sites. The number of visitors to national parks and protected areas and to rural communities continues to rise. And while nature or "eco" tourism is generally considered to have a lower impact than mass tourism - requiring less infrastructure and development - even small scale use can damage the natural resources which attract tourists in the first place But what is the word Eco mean with Simply defined Ecotourism is travel to relatively undisturbed places for the purpose of enjoying natural surroundings. Ecotourism can be also defined as Responsible travel to natural areas, which conserves the environment and sustains the livelihood of local people.

Activities included in a tour that are designed to entertain clients and are coordinated by a professional guide or interpreter. Over 80 activities have been listed for ecotourism, such as bird watching, hiking, diving, kayaking, participating in cultural events, photography, and mountaineering.

Ecotourism resources
Natural and cultural features that attract visitors, such as landscapes, endemic or rare flora and fauna, cultural festivals, and historical monuments.

Ecotourism services
Tourism services such as transportation, food, lodging, guiding and interpretation services which cause minimal damage to the biological and cultural environments and promote a better understanding of the natural and cultural history of an area.

For making our article simpler we will define ecotourism with respect to the area in which the ABVIMAS operates. Himachal Pradesh is a hill state nestled in the Western Himalayas. The State takes pride in its natural beauty manifested by the snow clad mountains; alpine pastures containing colorful flowers; landscape dotted with perennial streams, lush green forests, herds of grazing animals, picturesque villages, natives in traditional dresses, and indigenous architecture. The traditional hospitality and crime free society has added to the natural attractions of the state, making it one of the most sought after tourist destination in India. Himachal Pradesh receives about 45 lacs (4.5 million) of tourists annually and this number is growing steadily, in the order of 10 to 30% annually. At selected locations / valleys, adventure tourism activities such as mountaineering, trekking, camping, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, kayaking / canoeing, angling, paragliding, alpine and heli skiing, snowboarding etc. are becoming popular day by day.

Its also important to write some basic facts on the institute which serves as the most eco friendly institutions in the state. It’s not only practicing ecotoursim but also making guidelines for various activities that have got ABVIMAS in the limelight.

The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports,Manali (ABVIMAS) is an Indian institution located in Manali (Himachal Pradesh) providing specialized training in skiing, mountain rescue and mountaineering. It conducts regular courses in mountaineering and skiing during January to December. The other activities of the ABVIMAS include trekking, rock climbing, and adventure and water sports. The Department was established in the year of 1961 and more than 80,000 people have been trained in different adventure activities since its inception. Training is imparted under the guidance of 22 highly professional Instructors (including three Everesters) who have extensive experience in Skiing & Mountaineering in Himalayas, Alps (France) and Norway. The ABVIMAS has approximately 100 Employees. It has a spacious campus with administrative offices, a modern auditorium, lecture rooms, library, kitchen, dining hall and hostel accommodation for 300 trainees. There is also fitness training area and meteorological observatory post. There are eight (9) training Centers established all over Himachal State to provide adventure tourism training to the locals and others from all over the country and abroad.

Today, it is a well known fact that tourism can play in catalyzing the economy from essentially an agrarian one to dynamic one based on optimum development of tourism. Tourism therefore has been identified as a critical thrust area that can revolutionize the quality of life of people of Himachal. Statistics of tourist arrivals in Himalayan region indicate that there is a growing desire for being close to nature. Thus the development of tourism has to be eco-friendly, with pragmatic strategies to develop tourism in a sustainable fashion and within the framework of preserving the ecology and culture of the Himalayas. At the same time forests and mountains cannot be forbidden for the tourists and mountaineers. Sensitive natural sites are in limited supply and disappearing at lighting speed. Many experts believe the use of the natural environment is at a critical stage. The challenge today is to promote tourism activities in natural areas, while minimizing the negative impacts on them. A challenge, which is being taken up by the ABVIMAS with full responsibility and zeal.

The ABVIMAS follows various guidelines not only prescribed for its activity spread all over the state but also to institututions throughout that are affiliated with it. These guidelines have been taken from various tourism experts as well as from the ecotourism society for any person that are affiliated with trade PREDEPARTURE PROGRAMS -- VISITOR INFORMATION AND EDUCATION

Guideline
Prepare travelers to minimize their negative impacts while visiting sensitive environments and Offer visitors the educational materials they need to learn about the places and people to be visited and introduce the importance of contributing to the conservation of places being visited. Educate visitors about the full range of natural and cultural phenomenon to be observed. Educate visitors to consider the effects of their visit in advance and to modify their behavior while traveling, with the objective of minimizing impacts.

Provide introductory information on the people and ecosystems to be visited in predeparture packages. Stress the importance of reading pre-departure information, such as selected bibliographies, and review additional resources for each destination. Keep information objective and well-grounded using examples of phenomenon visitors might encounter. Provide general travel ethics addressing standards for behavior in natural areas and with local cultures. Provide information on the equipment, clothing and personal supplies suitable to the regions being visited. Warn against bringing disposable goods that contribute to the solid waste burden in the region. Provide information on products to avoid that are illegally traded. Provide information, as required, on avoiding the accidental transport of foreign, exotic species into isolated ecosystems being visited.

Visitor Benefits
Visitor is attuned to the full range of opportunities for viewing wildlife and learning about different cultures. Awareness of personal responsibility to minimize impacts on the environment and local cultures before departure. Visitor has proper gear and clothing for environments and cultures to be visited.

GUIDING PROGRAMS -- GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF GUIDING TOURS

Prepare travelers for each encounter with local cultures and with native animals and plants. Pave the way for reciprocal sensitivity between cultures by teaching tourists to be unobtrusive while they are encountering environments and cultures. Provide visitors with the opportunity to learn more about the social and political circumstances of the region being visited. Provide visitors with the opportunity to learn more about local environmental problems and conservation efforts. Provide quality orientation and enough leaders to manage the group according to the sensitivity of the environment visited can achieve these things. Give quality interpretation at all times; explain local cultures and describe natural history. Encourage interaction with local people while overseeing contact to avoid cultural errors. Conduct briefings before each stop, including behaviors to avoid, restricted practices and zones, special alerts for fragile and endangered species, specific distances to maintain with local wildlife, and local regulations. Use of time on road and in cities for educational discussions of all kinds including balanced discussions of local issues.

Visitor Benefits
Awareness of how to encounter cultures and environment with minimum negative impact. Insight into the visitor's own role and potential contribution to local conservation and sustainable economic development efforts.

GUIDING POGRAMS -- PREVENTION OF ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

Guideline
Minimize visitor impacts on the environment by offering literature, briefings, leading by example, and taking corrective actions.

Objectives
Help visitors to minimize their negative impacts by enhancing their understanding of the fragility of the environment.

Company guides should pursue the following procedures
Provide a set of environmental guidelines, created by the company, specific to the area being visited. Obtain and distribute available guidelines for each natural area visited. Allow protected area staff to introduce guidelines if possible. Brief visitors on proper behavior - on trails, in campsites, around wild animals, around fragile plants - and with trash, with human waste, with fires, and with soaps. Advise all travelers on the level of difficulty of each excursion to prevent damage to the environment caused by lack of experience or ability to maneuver in unfamiliar terrain. Discourage unrealistic expectations of observing rare wildlife and plants by interpreting all aspects of the ecosystem. Advise against collecting souvenirs from natural areas, such as feathers, bones & shells, unless it is specifically condoned by local authorities. Advise against purchasing specific crafts that are produced from threatened natural resources.

Visitor Benefits
Learns how to travel without leaving footprints. Gains a greater understanding of travel's impact on the environment. Is informed of the rules and regulations of natural areas and the need to follow them.

GUIDING PROGRAMS -- PREVENTION OF CULTURAL IMPACTS
Guideline
Minimize traveler impact on local cultures by offering literature, briefings, leading by example, and taking corrective actions.

Objectives
Protect the integrity of the cultures being visited by minimizing visitor contribution to acculturation and the decline of local values. Enhance visitor understanding of local cultures but avoid improper intrusions into the private lives of others.

Techniques
Company guides should be aware of the following procedures: Interpret local cultural values and history of local cultures. Provide a set of cultural guidelines created by the company, specific to the area being visited. Where available, obtain and distribute guidelines written by local communities. Advise visitors to accept differences, adopt local customs, and be unobtrusive. Discuss appropriate behavior when photographing. Discuss appropriate behavior when purchasing goods, tipping, and responding to begging.

Visitor Benefits
A better understanding of local values and cultures and how to behave with local peoples to minimize cultural impacts.
The ability to look, listen and learn from others without intruding.


Thus more such details can be made by the ABVIMAS coordinating t need and the areas involved. Ultimately one of the most important goals of ecotourism must be the preservation of nature. Education about the inherent societal values of the environment will be key to reaching this goal. Protected sites are already being used for significant scientific research. Often the findings contribute to an increased recognition of the area's ecological value. The research can also serve to establish benchmarks for preservation, since the sites are often largely intact and relatively pristine ecosystems, they can serve as a basis for comparison.

Travel to these remote places has the potential to inform and educate large groups of people about the importance of nature. A step that has been started by the institute with educating more than 15000 children from all over India in various mountaineering fields. This awareness will give vital support for efforts to protect the world in the future. At summer's end sightseers may return home with more than snapshots and a sunburn, today's ecotourist could bring back a greater appreciation for the natural world and the motivation to protect it.

 

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