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Eco – Tourism: Steps Towards Sustainable Tourism Development in Nepal 2004 1

Eco – Tourism: Steps Towards Sustainable Tourism Development in Nepal Eco-tourism is a logical component of eco-development. It is a complex and multidisciplinary phenomenon and has a tremendous role to play in the interpretation of nature and natural resources, as well as in the understanding of human history and its interaction with the rural environment, and the diffusion of environmental knowledge and awareness. It can serve as an important tool for environmental education and for raising ecological awareness, both in tourists and local people, and government officials: Eco-tourism has been defined by the World Conservation Union as environmentally responsible travel and visits to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features – both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations. Eco-tourism respects the environment and encourages and promotes the well being of local people. Nature tourism may or may not do this. Eco-tourism is also not to be confused with adventure sports or even snow skiing, amusement parks etc., which in fact might have a negative impact on the environment. Ecotourists likes to go around in a ‘ low impact way ’. Adventure tourists are not necessarily eco-tourists. However, eco-tourism certainly needs a spirit of an adventure, especially when negotiating bad roads. The World Heritage Convention of UNESCO has declared world heritage sites to preserve and protect our natural and cultural heritage. When both nature and culture are present together, it is an attractive combination, which we call it as Eco-tourism. Eco-tourism development is visualized as a development tool – not just in promoting tourism growth but also in reducing poverty particularly in the rural areas. In Nepal, though poverty is widespread and pervasive, it is even more acute in the mountain areas. Economic pursuits in those areas are limited to agriculture, livestock and trans-boundary trade. All these activities suffer from low productivity, and are subsistence oriented. Eco -tourism is expected to engage them in the higher productivity areas by linking to commercial process, and marketing chain extending beyond borders. Nepal ranks among the least-developed countries in the Asian and Pacific Region. In Fiscal Year 1999, its per capita income was only less than $ 220. Its high population growth rate landlocked position, low rate of domestic savings, a

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harsh terrain that provides few natural resources, and a sensitive physical environment constrain the economy’s development potential. The government’s principal efforts are directed toward identifying and mobilizing resources for balanced economic growth. The sustained development of the tourism sector is an important way of (i) promoting and managing the country’s cultural, ecological and environmental heritage; (ii) generating a demand for goods and services through increased tourist arrivals and higher spending; (iii) increasing foreign exchange earnings; and (iv) reducing poverty by diversifying the benefits of tourism, throughout the country. Nepal’s advantage in tourism, signified by its access to the Himalayas, its unique culture, and its historical heritage; are universally recognized. The tourism sector has been accorded high priority by the Government in the Ninth Plan (FY 1998 – FY 2002). The tourism sector remains one of the country’s largest foreign exchange earners. During FY 1998 and the sector earned foreign currency equivalent to NRS 10 billion (approximately $ 161 million) which represented 36 percent of the total income received from the exports of goods and 15 percent of total foreign exchange earnings. In 1977, there was an increase of 7.2 percent over the previous year in total tourist arrivals...
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