June , 2023
Tiger Tourism
16:30 pm

Dr. Nirmalya Chakraborty

Wildlife tourism provides a profound opportunity to connect with nature and gain a deeper understanding of our beautiful planet. It enables us to recognize that we are part of an intricate ecological system, where every organism - including humans, animals, birds, insects, plants, and fish - impacts one another. We now acknowledge the vital importance of biodiversity for our well-being and the health of the entire planet. As urban lifestyles become increasingly complex and stressful, more people are seeking solace and rejuvenation in wild spaces.

Outdoor wildlife experiences can range from observing animals during wildlife safaris to direct interactions with them. When conducted responsibly, wildlife safaris and observations have minimal impact on nature and species, promoting harmony and eco-sustainability. Examples include viewing wildlife from a respectful distance on a safari, embarking on bird-watching treks in the forest with a naturalist, or engaging in whale watching from a boat in the ocean. India, with its diverse ecosystems and abundant biodiversity, is a land that captivates wildlife travelers from around the world. While India is home to many endemic species, it is the tiger that influences and enthralls wildlife enthusiasts the most. The tiger, one of the most magnificent creatures on Earth, is also considered the emblem of Indian ecotourism. Its majestic presence binds visitors to its jungle domain, exuding a regal aura that proclaims its kingship. Each animal seems to bow in the presence of this majestic ruler. As hunter-turned-naturalist Jim Corbett aptly said, “The more we read about him, the more he appears in our dreams.” A closer look at the secret life of the tiger reveals an array of emotional traits that dispel any negative misconceptions associated with this beautiful creation.

India’s robust conservation initiatives have played a crucial role in restoring critical tiger habitats and protecting the flora and fauna that adorn the tiger’s realm. Since the formal introduction of Project Tiger on April 1, 1973, aimed at saving the dwindling tiger population, India has established 53 tiger reserves, safeguarding approximately 3167 wild tigers across 75,796.83 square kilometers of pristine habitat. The number of wild tigers in a reserve and the likelihood of spotting them are directly proportional to tourist inflows. Some of the most renowned tiger reserves, offering impactful tiger viewing experiences, include Corbett, Ranthambore, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Tadoba-Andhari, Bandipur, Nagarhole, Kaziranga, and the Sundarbans. These parks provide world-class but regulated and organized jungle experiences, including eco-resorts, jungle safaris, tribal and village interactions, nature trails, and more.

According to provisional estimates from the government, foreign exchange earnings from tourism in the country have witnessed a remarkable 107% increase, rising from ₹65,070 crore in 2021 to ₹1,34,543 crore in 2022, as reported by ANI. This contribution alone amounts to nearly 10% of our GDP. Although ecotourism currently represents a small fraction of the overall tourism industry in our country, it is one of the fastest-growing segments, expanding at approximately 15% per year. As per a report, around ₹100 crore in tourist visitation fees were collected from the tiger reserves between 2018 and 2021. Additionally, ecotourism generates numerous local job opportunities, not only in roles such as naturalists, tour guides, and hospitality staff but also in associated industries that cater to the preferences of environmentally conscious foreign visitors, such as local, eco-friendly food, transportation, and interactions with tribal communities. 

                            -The author is the Founder and Editor – Jungle Rhythms

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