SHIMLA: The New Year revelry is no less than a hurricane for Himachal with thousands of people heading for the hills to either be part of a white New Year or just be among the elements. Traffic chaos in major towns of the state on New Year eve is not anything new, but it may soon turn into a big problem if not cured on time. The so-called festival rush of tourists is welcome, considering that tourism is a major revenue source for the state. What needs to taken care of is how to deal with vandalism carried out by those who visit the state for a short duration.
Though just like any other industry, tourism too has its own occupational hazards, but in this case the victims are not only those who are in this industry but the whole ecology and culture of the place. Dealing with cultural invasion that comes with tourists is a complex issue and cannot have short-term or one-time solutions. However, logistics related problems can be taken care of if the authorities get a little bit more vigilant about such issues. Drunken driving, haphazard parking, blaring music, littering in public places, etc, are just few problems that can be curtailed if there is some strictness from authorities.
As a preventive measure, a proper manual can be prepared regarding dos and don’ts for tourists and even locals, which should be available at all tourist information centres or even printed on parking slips, bus tickets and mentioned along roadsides on information boards. Those in the tourist industry, like hoteliers and travel agents, should also be asked to see that there clients do not get involved in any rule violations. For this, special training sessions can be held to make them aware about the fragility of the eco-system they live in.
While introduction of tourism as a subject at college level will help in bringing tourism under the organised sector in the long run, the government should also try to introduce it in the form of vocational training in ITIs, Locals should also be encouraged to form area monitoring bodies to keep vigil though not at the cost of hospitality for which Himachalis are known.
But above all, there should be a mechanism or some deterrent to make tourists follow rules. They should be made sensitive towards local realities by organising special sessions at events like summer and winter festivals. It’s important to make them believe that it is their own paradise at risk.