Tourism has always been an encouraged sector, generating significant revenue, conservation of endangered species and has revived cultural heritage. It is only in the recent times that the negative effects of “overtourism” has come into play, relating to matters of too many visitors exceeding the carrying capacity of a particular destination. Local communities selling their land to hoteliers, forests getting jammed by tourist vehicles, tourists finding it difficult to view wildlife because of overcrowding and eventually leading to degradation of wildlife as well as the natural ecosystem are signs of “overtourism”. The Corbett Tiger Reserve, one of India’s best preserved parks with 164 tigers and over 600 elephants, has shown all signs of such “overtourism”. Pawalgarh Prakriti Prahari (PPP) provides a unique platform where individual home-stay owners sign an agreement obliging them to follow the terms and conditions laid down by PPP and in turn avail the benefits of the PPP agreement. This is indeed an innovation in community-based tourism in India.
The Pawalgarh Conservation Reserve is not more than half an hour from Corbett, forming a part of the larger tiger landscape. Established in 2012, Pawalgarh has large tracts of forests, numerous species of mammals and birds. Close to it is the Eco Harryman home-stay, offering a range of activities to travellers like natural walks, camping, adventure activities and traditional games.
With amazing bird diversity in the state, birding festivities have become a regular feature in the state with the Forest Department in collaboration with other groups like Titli Trust, Kalpavriksh and Himal Prakriti playing the leading the way in this venture. The second birding festivity, held in Pawalgarh in 2015, led to the realization of linking rural youth to conservation, eventually leading to the birth of PPP. PPP was registered as a not-for-profit nature conservation society in December 2015. Supporting nature conservation, environment protection and sustainable living by promoting alternate livelihoods such as ecotourism through village homestays, nature tours with experienced guides and promoting local produce and cuisine in the landscape of the Pawalgarh Conservation Reserve are its main objectives. It also supports the sale of nature interpretation products such as books, brochures, handicrafts and paintings.
PPP, with the help of organizations, is attempting to move towards a model of community-based tourism, and hopes to provide livelihood to local youth, ensure that tourism in Pawalgarh is eco-friendly, equitable and sustainable, and support natural conservation activities. PPP will sign an agreement with individual home-stay owners who will comply with the terms and conditions laid down by PPP and in turn avail the benefits of the agreement. PPP will be responsible for marketing of home-stays, customer engagement, planning of schedules and itineraries; managing bookings and financial transactions, registration of home-stays; and ongoing training and capacity building. Home-stay owners, in turn, will look after all onsite customer management that includes boarding and lodging, nature guiding, maintaining home-stay property, payment of bills for all utilities used and sharing onsite customer feedback.