This year started on a remarkable note for Indian tourism sparked by the Prime Minister’s visit to the island of Lakshadweep, his outreach move before the ensuing national elections. While Modi’s pictures exploring the serene beach of Lakshadweep went viral, what followed was an unprecedented diplomatic row between India and Maldives with derogatory comments from latter’s ministers on the poor service quality of Indian hospitality.
While it brought about a sudden sense of nationalism and pride in our domestic destinations with a series of tweets from celebrities and an all-time high Google search trends on Lakshadweep, a knee-jerk reaction from leading OTAs only added the much needed masala to create drama like a daily soap on television.
What these moments brought about was a global spotlight on the beauty of Lakshadweep, and the need to explore this island instead of going abroad for beach exploration. Some reports even claimed that tour operators having received massive bookings for Lakshadweep and are witnessing a record number of cancellations for Maldives. However, it’s 2024, and it’s time we get real about our intentions when India is keen on playing a lead role, globally, on discussions of sustainable development, waste disposal guidelines and carbon neutrality.
India, with its long coastline, has established beach destinations that have failed to maintain a decent standard of hygiene and cleanliness to attract even high-value Indian tourists let alone bringing in a massive influx of foreign visitors. And for a small archipelago like Lakshadweep, a sudden spurt in tourists is a complete recipe for disaster. Look at Uttarakhand, where the past decade has seen frequent flash floods leading to massive destruction to property and human life due to unregulated tourism development at the cost of nature. The tourism industry globally, and especially Lakshadweep has reached a stage where a thorough study is required to understand the carrying capacity of a destination and waste management techniques to avoid a repeat of the kind of damage that even Ladakh is facing today.
It is no more about being able to cater to the masses but evenly spreading out tourist traffic to maintain a fine balance. It is best to learn our lessons and avoid mistakes of the past. Even established destinations are now moving away from welcoming hordes of tourists, and are advocating tourism that is sustainable in the long run. Nature is a gift that has seen sustained abuse for centuries, and it’s time for humans to pull the plug.
Moreover, infrastructure development is a structured and time-consuming process. One can’t just rest on the natural beauty of a destination while there is not enough accommodation available and airport connections are negligible. It takes years of planning, execution, development and rigorous marketing on trade and consumer fronts to generate the desired tourist numbers. Jumping the bandwagon without awareness of the ground infrastructure is a dangerous trend.