Greenpiece: Covid tourism lessons from Canada’s Banff national park
The Banff National Park of Canada has a Covid-19 lesson for the world — keep tourism at iconic spots at current levels to make it sustainable.
Tourists like novelty, convenience and value for money. But fragile landscapes can’t take it beyond a point. I travelled to the Banff, and was blown away by the natural beauty.
The tourism industry said it was a terrible business year. They missed the financial fortunes the glut of Chinese and Japanese tourists brought.
Meanwhile, environmental groups believe that the habitat has been fragmented by highways and travelling tourist cars, not to mention the man-animal conflict. For example, grizzlies come in conflict with people and, in the past, have been put down. The park authority has made plans to reduce pressure on the ecosystem. Still, there is strong demand to restrict the number of tourists and the use of private transportation by making buses more tourist-friendly.
There is also the issue of restricting the residents in Banff town itself.
If this is the challenge at one of the best governed parks in the world, what about the rest?
Of course, tourists and vehicular movement should be restricted — the Galapagos already does that.
Fewer tourists should become the post-pandemic norm, because tourism otherwise forces loss of habitat, a key reason for species decline.
Globally, governments and ecotourism leadership have to develop new economic models where visitors take to slow tourism, and fewer people are allowed to enter the temples of wilderness.
There is no other way.
(The writer is the founder and director of the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)