Scots ideas help shape first Indian eco-tourism project

The project will enourage people to visit more rural areas of the country, such as the Valley of Flowers National Park in the West Himalayas (Picture by Kdhenrik)

TOURISM experts are using 19th century ideas developed in Scotland to establish the first ecotourism co-operative in rural India.

eTourism expert, Professor Andy Frew from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh has led a collaboration with Dunira Strategy, Scottish destination specialists and experts in co-operative tourism development which is devising a new model of destination management that is as relevant in the Highlands of Scotland as it is in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The team is now celebrating an important milestone in the project with the registration of Bageshwar Ecotourism Co-operative Society (BECS) inIndia.

This co-operative tourism development project, funded by the Scottish Government’s South Asia Development Programme, is supporting communities in ruralIndia to embrace the concept of destination management and marketing.

The aim is to encourage tourists to visit beautiful and unspoilt less established destinations, rather than continually gravitating to India’s better known larger ‘honeypot’ cities and resorts.

Benjamin Carey from Dunira Strategy explained: “The project is all about building local capacity. By training people in local communities we can help them manage their own area as a tourism destination, equipping them with the skills to develop efficient supply chains and market their destination to visitors through effective distribution channels.


“The overall aim is to create viable rural tourism destinations which can be developed as sustainable businesses, thereby building strong and healthy rural communities with a bright and confident future. It should also help to spread the economic benefits of tourism more evenly throughout the country.”

The concept for the project is based on the ‘co-operative principles’ developed in the 19th century by the social reformer, Robert Owen at New Lanark, which is now one of Scotland’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Robert Owen was one of the founders of the co-operative movement and it was his philosophy of building strong communities and successful businesses that turned around the fortunes of the people and the industry in New Lanark.

Mr Carey said: “It is the principles applied at New Lanark all those years ago, that will support the success of these new tourism co-operatives in rural India.”

Professor Frew added: “This is a very timely project. This year has been designated ‘International Year of Cooperatives’. Following our recent milestone where we registered the first ecotourism co-operative society, 2012 will see the replication of this model across the Indian Himalayan states of Uttarakhand and West Bengal. This new network of co-operative destination management organisations (cDMOs), to be branded ‘Edge of India’, will be supported by a world class destination portal designed by Scottish software developers eZone.

“This project is one of extremes. One part of the project is the development of very basic rural tourism projects which are locally sensitive, but at the same time, these are being presented to the world through the use of leading edge technologies.”