India could take a few lessons from its neighbouring countries when it comes to tourism. While popular beaches in the country are in the news for all the wrong reasons, this beach in Sri Lanka may have a lesson or two to offer to fight off the tourism troubles.
On the Beruwela beach in south-western Sri Lanka, the once notorious beach boys have turned into beach operators. Leering, eve-teasing or gesturing that they indulged into once are now things of the past. The boys now manage the beach and help tourists unwind. In fact, they are now whistle blowers for acts of hooliganism on the beach.
“Once almost all tourists were targeted here. These boys used to act like an organised mafia along the two-km beach stretches,” said Chamarie Maelge, Sri Lanka’s executive director of tourism.
Nonetheless, this stretch is now the most sought after destination for foreign tourists, she added.
Speaking at the recently concluded second International Conference on Responsible Tourism held in Kochi, Maelge said the problem for most of the boys was lack of education and money.
“After studying their case we found illiteracy alone was not the problem. Poverty and a sense of alienation also bothered them. So we started a programme called LINC (Learning and Involving community). Intense counselling and training finally bore fruits,” she said explaining the image makeover for the boys.
Delegates from 29 countries participated in the three-day session that focused on discussing ways and means to bring in responsible tourism.
Speaking at the event, Padma Mohanti, deputy conservator of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, also explained an interesting case of participatory tourism. “Local tribal women have floated a group called Vasantha Sena. The group patrols fringe areas of the park without any remuneration,” she said.
Dr Harold Goodwin, chairman of the International Council for Responsible tourism put into words what responsible tourism would mean. “An acceptance by all stakeholders, including the industry, the government and local communities that sustainable tourism is everyone’s forte,” he said.