• Open Access

Nature-based tourism in Indian protected areas: New challenges for park management

Authors

  • Krithi K. Karanth,

    1. Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA
    2. Centre for Wildlife Studies, 1669, 31st Cross, 16th Main, Banashankari 2nd Stage, Bengaluru 560070, India
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  • Ruth DeFries

    1. Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA
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  • Editor
    Ashwini Chhatre

Correspondence
Krithi K. Karanth, Centre for Wildlife Studies, 1669, 31st Cross, 16th Main, Banashankari 2nd Stage, Bengaluru 560070, India. Tel.: +91-9900902041. E-mail: krithi.karanth@gmail.com

Abstract

Previous research indicates that numbers of visits to protected areas (PAs) are declining in wealthy countries while foreign visitation is increasing in less-wealthy countries. We focus on India to discern trends and implications of nature-based tourism in an emerging economy. We interviewed 91% of tourist facilities around 10 PAs to assess visitation, employment, and practices. Average growth rate was 14.9% (from −7% in Bandipur to 44% in Periyar from 2002 to 2008) and 80% are domestic tourists. Many facilities (72% post 2000) are recently constructed and 85% occur within 5 km of PAs. Clustering of facilities in some PAs might facilitate easier management of resource use and establishment of best practice guidelines. Contributions of facilities to local employment are marginal. Rules governing entry of people and vehicles vary widely. Domestic nature-based tourism potentially generates public support for conservation but adds to existing challenges of managing PAs already facing pressure from livelihood needs of local populations. Based on these trends, the increasing middle class in India is likely to generate future demand for nature-based tourism counter to trends in industrialized countries. There is urgent need for establishing and enforcing regulations to manage tourists, resource use, and land-use change around PAs.

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