Eco-Tourism OR Wildlife Tourism
Tourism is one of the world’s most profitable industries and in the last decade, interest in wildlife or eco-tourism has gained momentum. Eco-tourism promotes and organises nature-based experiences and aims to introduce visitors to wild and remote destinations in a way that is not intrusive or destructive to the environment.
In many countries, it can provide a vital economic rationale for Protected Areas and has the potential to generate significant benefits for conservation, communities and governments. Those interested in this field can opt for a degree in hospitality, management and recreation with specialisation in ecology and environment. You could choose to work on marketing a destination, as a tour operator or opt to be in the employ of lodges or resorts located in wildlife destinations as a naturalist guide or manager. You could also seek jobs with organisations that promote eco-tourism, be a consultant for hotels and resorts and help implement eco-tourism policies and practices, work with NGOs and research organisations or be self-employed within this sector. Ensure, however, that your employer offers legitimate eco-tourism services that extend beyond mere lip service.
Though there are very few courses focusing on ecological or nature-based tourism covering community, conflicts, impact assessment and visitor behaviour and attitudes in India, some courses are available. Sikkim Manipal University offers an M.Sc. in Eco-tourism with study centres all across India and focuses on eco-tourism planning and development, human conflict and wildlife conservation (www.ecology.edu/iiee/eco-tourism.htm) and the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM, Bhopal) has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Forest Management with a specialised module in Eco-tourism and Nature Conservation (www.iifm.ac.in/admission/coursestru.htm). Environment tourism courses based overseas are a good but expensive option. The Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent, Canterbury, U.K. offers an MSc. in Conservation and Tourism and the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at the Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, U.K. offers an MSc. in Responsible Tourism Management. One can also obtain a Bachelors of Eco-tourism at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Flinders University, Australia.
With so much scope in this field, it is important for institutes in India to realise the importance of providing young travel professionals with proper educational opportunities. Eco-tourism can be an effective conservation tool, if used wisely.
With inputs from Abhishek Behl,
Director (India), Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT).