Dangers of Over-tourism

The word Over-tourism was coined in 2016 by a writer at media company Skift. Over-tourism happens when the number of tourists far exceeds the capacity of a place to sustain the ecosystem. In the long run the destination becomes unsustainable. Also ,when there are too many visitors especially to little hamlets which is what is attracting tourists to Meghalaya, the quality of life for the local communities can diminish; their early morning silence is broken by the cacophony of visitors coming at unearthly hours of 4 am to watch the sunrise. The surrounding natural environment can be negatively affected, and the quality of the tourists’ experience can decline. Also, the fact that there is as yet no robust garbage management system at these places is a huge worry.
The Government of Meghalaya takes pride in the number of footfalls touching Meghalaya which was to the tune of 15 lakhs in 2019. The pandemic years saw a decline but tourism has now picked up. For village tourism the Government has decided to rely on local communities to develop their destinations while only playing the role of facilitator and helping communities to build toilets, viewpoints and homestays etc. This is a good practice except for the fact that communities are largely untrained. Only a few people within the community have the wherewithal to interface with tourists. There are no clear guidelines for tourists on what they can and cannot do. Hence tourists adopt a for free for all attitude. It is unfortunate that every tourist destination is littered with liquor bottles, plastic water bottles and more. These are eyesores for the tourists with aesthetic sense. Community tourism demands that the community take charge of the tourism in their village and they actively participate as stakeholders who earn either by producing local artefacts, selling food or running homestays. Young people in that village can be trained to be qualified guides. In this aspect the Institute for Hotel Management (IHM) Shillong has been training different batches of young people to manage tourism in their villages. Perhaps the IHM needs to tap the youth from different tourist destinations. Community tourism puts people (the entire community) at the centre of decision-making so that tourism benefits the entire community and not just a few organisations.
Community-based tourism is a contrast to large-scale tourism. Local people in general do not have enough information, resources, and strength in solving various decisions. Often the locals are mere objects and are vulnerable to exploitation. Hence the State Government needs to step in to build the capacity of the communities where tourist have started flocking in hordes even before the communities are prepared. Also, each community must decide whether it actually wants to attract ‘tourists’ who come to stay and spend money or just ‘excursionists’ who visit and leave without spending anything except the pittance of Rs 30 or 50 as entry fees into the village. There’s much that the Government has to do to ensure that mass tourism does not kill Meghalaya’s tourism prospects.

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