Speaking at the HSBC presented “Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT) first annual Wildlife Tourism Awards” held on the 30th September in New Delhi, the TOFT Chairman said :
“Tonight we have been celebrating the people and the companies that show the vital part that Ecotourism has to play in conservation. Well planned tourism offers visitors a chance to enjoy India’s stunning wildlife and landscape while also providing local communities with new services, employment and enhanced opportunities. This in turn can helps take extractive pressure off India’s increasingly denuded forests.
“Our winners tonight show what can be done with flair and imagination – projects such as Village Ways Homestays in Binsar, or Help Tourism in Manas National Park - use tourism to help support village communities while giving tourists a fun and rewarding experience. Our Lodge of the Year – Camp Forktail near Corbett is also a shining example of how well directed tourism can actually help rewild barren lands. Visitors come back again and again to the bush camp created by Ritish and Minakshi Suri. Eight years ago they took over highly degraded land and now they run a popular lodge, amongst lush jungle.
“The judges also highlighted the work of the Forest Department in Satpura National Park. There the Department have been promoting new ideas to enable visitors to experience far more to India’s rich wilderness than chasing after a photograph of a tiger !”
“ All our winners use tourism in a way that benefits local communities. TOFT believe these ideas need to be encouraged, but we also believe that better regulation is essential if good practice is not outpaced by the bad. Visionary policy and much better legislation and enforcement is needed. Tourism is now a major industry with 650 million trips taken in India each year. The tigress ‘Machali’ in Ranthambhore is calculated to have earned INR522crore (US$120m) in her lifetime in direct tourism revenue. Tourism is also India’s largest employer. We hope Government appreciates the need to act soon.
Chairman of Judges, film maker and conservationist extraordinaire, Mike Pandey added a personal message to two Award Winners......
“Congratulations also to Wildlife Guide of the Year - Rajesh Kumar Dwivedi of Bandhavgarh and to Naturalist of the Year - Kartikeya Singh Chauhan of Mahua Kothi Lodge also of Bandhavgarh. People like Rajesh and Kartikeya are key to giving visitors an experience of a lifetime- their knowledge and passion for wilderness and wildlife really show through. I hope their approach can inspire others”.