Tourism must facilitate an inclusive approach for local people: Sahapedia baithak

>>Local people should have their say in tourism policy decisions, according to a Baithak organised as part of Sahapedia’s ongoing India Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF) 2019

 Sustainable tourism scholar-activist Sumesh Mangalassery speaking at a baithak, titled ‘Sustainable Tourism and Participatory Heritage Conservation’, organised by Sahapedia on Feb 19 at the Museum of Kerala History in Edapally as part of the India Heritage Walk Festival 2019.

Sustainable tourism scholar-activist Sumesh Mangalassery speaking at a baithak, titled ‘Sustainable Tourism and Participatory Heritage Conservation’, organised by Sahapedia on Feb 19 at the Museum of Kerala History in Edapally as part of the India Heritage Walk Festival 2019.

Local people should have their say in tourism policy decisions, according to a Baithak organised as part of Sahapedia’s ongoing India Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF) 2019.

The baithak, titled ‘Sustainable Tourism and Participatory Heritage Conservation’, explored the prospect of developing sustainable community tourism through participatory processes, which eventually help the local people benefit from tourism as well as support them in conserving their heritage.

Speaking at the discussion, sustainable tourism scholar-activist Sumesh Mangalassery said that the local population should be involved in development projects that focus on tourism, as he discussed measures to increase local participation in the sector.

Common people should have a role in the administrative implementation, commercial aspects, regional management and monitoring as well as control of such projects, elaborated Mangalassery, who runs an award-winning tourism-training initiative in Wayanad district.  

Mangalassery, who has worked in the fields of social advocacy, research and responsible tourism for over two decades, is the head of Kabani Tours, a Kozhikode-based NGO that promotes tourism research and functions as an advocacy entity, by intervening in policy matters in the sector.

His talk at the Museum of Kerala History in Edapally, also focused on top-down conservation mechanisms that tend to exclude locals , resulting in conflicts. In this respect, the speaker talked about the upcoming Barcelona municipal election in Spain, which has witnessed protests over non-participation of local people in tourism as it is a major poll issue.

In the context of India, he said that homestays are facing restrictions despite the fact that such accommodations have facilitated interaction of tourists with the people at the grassroots, while highlighting the role of grama sabhas and similar governance bodies dedicated to tourism promotion.

The IHWF, which received the prestigious PATA Gold Award 2018 for its maiden edition organised last year, is a one-of-its-kind month-long festival covering 37 cities, with nearly 100 heritage walks and outreach events. The February 02-28 festival is being supported by NMDC, a state-run mineral producer and explorer. All bookings for the festival are powered by Odigos, a product by the Bird Group, is an online marketplace that connects tourists to certified guides in India. Odigos app provides a seamless way for travellers and locals alike to understand and explore the iconic sites of our country.

IHWF 2019 is organized by Sahapedia in collaboration with UNESCO. The events’ bookings are powered by Odigos, an online marketplace that connects tourists to certified guides in India. The events’ bookings are facilitated by Odigos, an app that makes travel and discovery easier in India.

Vaibhav Chauhan, Festival Director (IHWF) and Secretary, Sahapedia, said: “We want to democratise access to local history and culture. One might be living in the same neighbourhood for years, but there is a big chance that an important landmark, tucked away in a back alley, has been missed and forgotten. The IHWF is that opportunity to discover the hidden gems linked to the history of a place, town or city.”

Junhi Han, Head and Programme Specialist for Culture, UNESCO New Delhi office, said, “The IHWF programme addresses knowledge of local architectural heritage, sustainable tourism, with a special focus on gender-related issues and accessibility in cultural heritage facilitating more inclusive and better outreach. The festival is expected to involve, engage and sensitize more people, in particular the youth, about their cultural heritage.” 

N. Baijendra Kumar, CMD, NMDC, said: “Initiatives like IHWF involve local communities which is integral for promoting India’s heritage. NMDC has been working in the remotest tribal areas of Bastar and Bailadila Hills for the past 60 years and also has closely promoted tribal culture, and other forms of Indian heritage. We are supporting Sahapedia in its efforts to increase civil society participation in understanding our nation’s heritage.”

Dr. Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group, said: “The Bird Group is always looking towards the future, and an important part of the future is understanding and cherishing the past. This association with Sahapedia brings us a step closer to achieving our vision of making Indian arts and culture inclusive and interactive. Odigos app by Bird Group, that aims to streamline guided travel tour experiences of travellers, will play the role of a tech enabler for Sahapedia’s IHWF bookings and support the guides community”.

Details about the walks, registration and other programmes of IHWF 2019 are available on https://www.odigosguides.com/India-heritage-walk-festival

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