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 Tourism in Kullu Valley
 Problems and Prospects of Sustainability -
 Alarming Factors

 
by Ben Heron
benheron@ecosse.net

In many tourist destinations, very little of the money spent by the tourists actually makes its way into the local economy. Many tourists arrive in countries on foreign airlines, travel on package-tours organised by foreign companies and stay in hotels owned by non-local people. When this happens, a large proportion of the tourist's money makes its way back to companies in the West or to nearby cities in a process known as 'leakage'.

The amount of leakage in India has grown rapidly during the last ten years, especially in places such as Goa and Manali where large numbers of hotels have been built that are owned by foreign businessmen or rich landowners from cities such as Bombay and Delhi. When tourists stay in these hotels, most of the money that they spend does not reach the local economy; instead it goes into the pockets of the hotel owners and the foreign businessmen who arrange the tourist's holiday. Similarly, many of the trekking agencies in the Himalayas that offer self-sufficient tours, i.e. with all porters, food and tents provided, are organised in cities or foreign countries. The trekking groups go to fragile environments such as Spiti or Ladakh, use the local people's natural resources, deposit their rubbish and sanitation needs as they go along, but rarely contribute much money to the communities they visit.

Many of the larger hotels in the Kullu Valley consume disproportionate amounts of the local resources such as timber for building and heating, and large amounts of fuel and electricity. These resources should be managed very carefully, conserved for the use of local people and consumed at a sustainable rate so that they still exist for the use of future generations. Not only do these hotels consume local resources at an unsustainable rate; they create large amounts of litter and destroy the beauty of the landscape with their unattractive buildings and insensitive bill-board advertising. If the tourist industry continues in this way, the natural resources of the local people will become depleted, the environment will be damaged and the tourists will choose to go elsewhere. If this happens, the local people will have very few resources to survive on and it will be very difficult to reverse the changes.

 
 

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