The value of Wildlife Tourism around Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan for Wildlife Conservation and Local Communities
Led by Dr. Raghu Chundawat, with V. Upamanyu Raju and Hemant Rajora and Julian Matthews
This report sought to ascertain the economic value of tourism to a specific protected area in Rajasthan – Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, providing an indication of the distribution of its benefits and possible impacts. It is aimed at helping to develop steps in a better understanding of the industry and to help make its nature based tourism a major player as a sustainable, non-invasive, job rich economic stimulus to the surrounding area, its communities and the Rajasthan state.
Growing International Reputation
Ranthambhore Tiger reserve has gained an enviable international reputation as a wilderness destination in which to see wild tigers, and therefore attracts considerable attention from both the domestic and International travel market, with credit going to the park management, the Forest department’s approach and the tourism board’s efforts. The park is assisted in its popularity in that it lies within one of the most visited states in India, within reach 80% of the country’s designated heritage properties, alongside other parks and attractions, within easy reach of hubs like Delhi and Jaipur and with good well developed infrastructure for tourism.
Huge Visitor numbers
In 2016/17 it attracted an extraordinary total of 469,850 visitors with a ratio of 68% domestic travellers and 32% international travellers.
Record Park fee income for protection and conservation
In 2016/17 park fee revenues alone raised `19.57 crore (US$2.85m). This revenue is entirely for management of the park and tiger conservation, ensuring it is now one of Asia’s only self-sufficient parks. Ranthambhore is unique in that its nature based tourism generates considerably more revenue than the Central and State Governments allocate to its conservation and protection each year, making it effectively self-sufficient.
Large Revenues generated by nature tourism
The report reveals that tourism and associated services in and around Sawai Madhopur generated per annum a total of `217 crores (US$33.36m), a larger sum than that generated by the four most visited parks in Madhya Pradesh, which generated a total of `166 crores between them.
Tourism has no adverse impact on tiger numbers
As the report’s graphically highlights both tiger numbers and tourism have grown significantly with tiger numbers rising from 45 individuals in 2013 to 65 in 2017, whilst visitors rose from circa 320,000 to 460,000 in 2016/17 season, suggesting that the tiger population is not being adversely affected by visitor numbers.
Majority of the economic benefits stay locally
The report highlights the fact that local communities benefit considerably, with direct full time employment of 2211 staff, of which 70% are locals from the Sawai Madhopur district and 21% are from the state. Furthermore the large majority of tourist accommodation (86%) are in the budget category, with just under70% of all lodgings owned by locals.
Great for small businesses
Revenue estimated from small business enterprises in the villages that have tourism infrastructure is `1.14 crore (US$161,000) – four times higher than non-tourism villages at `25.89 laks (US$35,522). Revenue generated from shops and businesses on the Ranthambhore road is a staggering `8.74 crore (US$1.28m).
Luxury hotels employ more staff with better wages/benefits than budget lodges
The report highlights the importance of luxury category of lodges in rural areas for greater employment opportunities and better wage levels/additional benefits. High tariff lodges employed up to 6 staff per room compared to low tariff category at less than one staff per room. Furthermore, high-end lodges paid better salaries to junior staff in comparison to lower tariff lodge and paid for staff medical and insurance benefits, raising the standards of living for all those employed.
Management’s pragmatic approach ensured greater benefit to local economy
Ranthambhore management has greatly facilitated wildlife tourism with its pragmatic approach to opening of new zones for tourism. As a consequence it was less affected by the restriction on numbers that the NTCA’s 2012 guidelines required. The management alsointroduced half and full day safaris and other innovative interventions that benefit visitor wildlife experiences whilst enhancing revenue gains. This has helped the reserve to become self-sufficient, providing greater benefit to the local economy and state government.
Present tourism footprint not affecting park
The research identify a ‘hotspot’ of tourism enterprises in and around Sawai Madhopur. Though it presently has little impact on the park itself (i.e not cutting off viable corridors) itsfootprint is growing and will be a problem in the future if steps are not taken in terms of better tourism zoning and planning, improved water economy measures, elevated reliance on renewable energy use and much improved measures for waste management .
Poor ecological awareness and unsustainable footprint of most accommodation
The report confirms that there is limited awareness and understanding of environmental issues (water, waste, energy etc.) in relation to lodge operations, with much work needed to change this mentality amongst owners and management of hotels and visitors. Previous research in Madhya Pradesh’s lodge community indicates a far greater understanding of the issues there, suggesting their approach provides a suitable template for nature based tourism in Rajasthan.
Need for tourism benefits to be spread further
The report highlights that the considerable economic benefits and attendant improvement in quality of life achieved are largely restricted to communities and villagers living within the periphery of Sawai Madhopur (within 4 kms radius of the entry gate). Future planning and management should seek to ensure a more equitable distribution of the revenues from nature based tourism over the whole of the parks tourism “catchment” ensuring the long term health and welfare of both wildlife and people.
The report was commissioned and funded by TOFTigers and Baavan.
You can download the full report here