Covid 19, with strict norms, lockdowns, and restrictions to travel and tourism, has paused and affected our lives to a great extent. This pandemic has affected all the nations across the globe. This crisis has also had a severe impact on wildlife and ecotourism. The world has come to a complete standstill, and in the meanwhile, it looks like nature is getting back its area, and the wildlife is also trying to get out of their congested and encroached forest areas.
In India, tourism has significant potential with its rich culture and heritage, abundant natural beauty, and variety in the environment and ecology. In India, tourism is a large employment generator and also a significant source of foreign exchange. India is a hotspot for biodiversity, and with its natural heritage, it offers diverse tourism experiences. Ecotourism involves visiting fragile and relatively untouched natural areas with a conscious effort to preserve the natural beauty and wildlife in their natural habitat. So with this idea, ecotourism elevates the unusual and the offbeat places with their rich culture and traditions. It is now the need of the hour to promote ecotourism as it can help boost the tourism sector that has seen a backlash.
Covid-19 and lockdown have had a shattering impact on the country’s tourism sector. The world is now on the way to adapting to the new normal, but there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the loosening of the rules. After months of lockdown and staying indoor, people want to enjoy the company of nature amid the greenery and fresh air. Covid 19 has had a huge impact on the mode of transport used by the tourist. The travel trend has changed, and people prefer safe and responsible travel using their own vehicles to visit some offbeat locations away from crowded places.
Wildlife tourism has faced a severe impact of this pandemic, and the global wildlife trade has come under the spotlight. To control the spread of coronavirus, people are confining themselves in the safety of their homes, and there have been increased incidents of animals and wildlife venturing into the urban spaces. This pandemic and the global shutdown has made us think of our relationship with the environment and nature. If we want to sustain ourselves in our urban environment, we must learn to exist together peacefully. The lockdown rules and the quarantine has affected the wildlife in an unpredicted and unexpected way. In countries like India, some wildlife species are adapted to living in urban spaces and are dependent on the food given by humans or many times on the waste generated by humans.
The wildlife trade is under the spotlight, and the governments are taking steps to ban live animal markets and stop the illegal trafficking and poaching of wild animals. There has been a rise in poaching of the endangered species and the other wildlife for meat and trade, as all the places are shut down with no tourists and park rangers to pay any attention. The animals in the zoos, especially the animals like the monkeys and the gorillas that are social, are missing human attention as there is no one to watch them. On the other hand, some animals are happy with the privacy that they have got during this situation and have started mating naturally, which is extremely good for survival and increase in the number of the species. With people locked inside, animals are now roaming freely; for example, deers were seen walking on the streets of Haridwar, Dolphins were spotted on the Mumbai coasts, there was a spike in the number of Olive Ridley turtles as the beaches were empty with no human interference, and also many wild animals were spotted in the urban spaces in India.
Wildlife tourism accounts for a fair amount of economic contribution to the country’s GDP. Tourism has been predominant in almost all the conservation projects that have created job opportunities and income for the rural people and have empowered them. Tourism is a crucial part of the country’s biodiversity conservation strategy and poverty reduction. During this pandemic, these sections of the society have suffered a great deal due to the complete travel ban.
Due to the covid 19, the lockdown, and the travel ban, this economic lifeline based on the wildlife and ecotourism was affected severely. With this, thousands of jobs were at immediate risk, and there has been a substantial economic loss. After the lockdown is lifted, everything doesn’t get back to normal in a day, and the recovery time will be much more in the case of this covid pandemic.
The government is taking some initiatives to boost tourism, realizing the country’s potential in tourism. It has taken several steps to make it a global tourism hub and subsequently encourage ecotourism. Some steps that the government has taken are- it has inaugurated new tourist attractions in Gujarat, the Ministry of Tourism has developed an initiative called SAATHI, and launched the DEKHO APNA DESH webinar series. The Prime Minister of India has also urged people to visit domestic tourist destinations, and there are several planned projects to be launched soon.
The pandemic has disrupted the tourism industry. For uncertain events like these, the country must build and grow domestic travel as international tourism will take some time to start again. The ongoing pandemic has given us loud and clear lessons. And at such times, ecotourism has gained popularity as people now prefer to visit the lesser-known destinations, which will be the main factor that will reboot the tourism sector in India.