The Ministry ot Tourism has the specific agenda to promote tourism in the country in a responsible and sustainable manner and as per this mandate promotion of ecotourism assumes larger importance.
Eco-Tourism has been broadly defined as tourism which is ecologically sustainable. The concept of ecological sustainability subsumes the environmental carrying capacity of a given area. The general principal of ecotourism guiding the initiatives of the Ministry are as under:
(a) The local community should be involved leading to the overall economic development of the area.
(b) The likely conflicts between resource use for eco-tourism and the livelihood of local inhabitants should be identified and attempts made to minimize the same
(c) The type and scale of eco-tourism development should be compatible with the environment and socio-cultural characteristics of the local community, and
(d) It should be planned as a part of the overall area development strategy, guided by an integrated land-use plan avoiding inter-sectoral conflicts and ensuring sectoral integration, associated with commensurate expansion of public services.
In the recent years it has been assessed that there is a growing trend towards travel to eco tourism destinations like National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
Considering this trend a series of meetings were organized by Ministry of Tourism with the stakeholders, State Governments and Ministry of Environment & Forests under the initiative "Tigers - Our National Beauties" and the stake holders had raised serious concern about growing dangers to wildlife in our National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries due to unplanned growth of infrastructure in these areas which is also affecting the corridors for movement animals in the parks.
During these meetings, it was decided that before making any policy intervention we must have indipendent assessment of the ground situation in our National Parks & Wildlife Sanctuaries. In view of this, on a pilot basis, the first assessment of Hotels, Lodges, Resorts, Camps & Guest Houses in and around Corbett National Park was taken up by Ministry of Tourism considering that Corbett Reserve has the highest density of tigers in the country and is under huge biotic pressure. The Ministry of Tourism had commissionned this survey through the Students in Institute of Hotel Management, Pusa, New Delhi. Similar surveys were extended to Kaziranga National Park, Kanha National Park, Bandavgarh National Park, Pench Tiger Reserve and Mudumalai Wild LIife Sanctury. The survey of the aforesaid parks has come out with first hand information with regard to impact of tourism activity in and around the national parks and also the blocking of animal corridors.
To encourage the Stakeholders to promote & practice Ecotourism practices, the Ministry of Tourism has included categories of awards " Best Eco friendly Hotel", 'Best Responsible Tourism Project", "Best Eco friendly Practices by Tour Operators" in the National Tourism Awards presented annually to various segments of travel, tourism & hospitality sector