Need for participative processes in Tourism - A case of Jaipur as a smart heritage city
Rajasthan is not only known for its magnificent forts, the architecture but also the intangible cultural heritage of handloom weaving, block printing and embroidery, jewellery. Jaipur being the capital is rich in tangible heritage - monuments, forts, old bazaars and buildings - and has always attracted tourists through its vibrant markets, Hawa Mahal and Amer fort to mention a few. In 2019, Jaipur was added to the list of UNESCO World heritage sites. The part of the city which has been accorded the heritage status is also a site of living heritage as the old markets have now turned into wholesale markets. There are also havelis, some of which have been converted into luxury hotels for tourists. Jaipur saw a tourist footfall of 17.8 lakhs of domestic tourists and 6.8 lakhs of foreign tourists for the year 2018-19.
Another dimension to the city of Jaipur has been its addition to the smart cities project announced by Government of India in 2015 along with other cities in Rajasthan such as Udaipur, Kota and Ajmer. The smart city project in Jaipur was launched in June, 2015.The project aims to blend modernity with heritage through improvement of the facades, restoration of heritage sites, and construction of a smart enhanced traffic management system to ease the movement of the tourists in the city.
“The challenge in Jaipur is balancing heritage conservation with a growing city. For a city to be designated as world heritage under UNESCO, it has to fulfil certain criteria that makes it of ‘outstanding universal value’. It has to be an exceptional urban example in indigenous city planning and construction. Additionally, the city also needs to commit to protect and conserve its heritage”.
Given these two forms of certification, in this article we will highlight some of the characteristics of UNESCO world heritage sites with respect to tourism and how the planning process can happen by involving stakeholders within tourism.
Heritage Tourism and UNESCO
Heritage tourism has emerged as a major contributor to the tourism industry in the past few years employing millions of people directly and indirectly. Right now, tourism accounts for about 15% of the economy of Rajasthan and contributes about 11.2 per cent and 3.3 per cent share in India's foreign and domestic tourist arrivals respectively. Heritage sites are an attraction for not just domestic tourists but also gain attention from the international tourists especially with the attribution of labels such as UNESCO world heritage.
However, our experience in two of the UNESCO world heritage sites – Khajuraho and Hampi has informed us that there can be grave effects of mass tourism. Ifhe economy gets highly dependent on tourism, it can lead to destruction of the traditional economies and the communities stand a chance of losing their rights over resources and land. In Hampi, the locals have time and again expressed their discontent over exclusive World heritage site planning and not having any say over the tourism plans of the place. Since Hampi is a vast area which comes under UNESCO WHS, many of the people in the buffer zone also have lost the right to run commercial spaces such as cafes, restaurants, and homestays as it is extremely difficult to obtain licenses. In Khajuraho, the economy is highly dependent on tourism, and therefore during the lockdown period, the community was left with no income and continues to face the brunt in the second wave.
Tourism needs to be looked at as a development agenda which comes in with the idea to offer employment opportunities at the place. Though it offers opportunities to the people at the tourism location, people also stand a chance to lose ownership over their land and resources especially in places famous for heritage. UNESCO guidelines for conservation make it a mandate for the countries adhering to it to prioritize conservation in the process of which the “living” or the intangible part of heritage is affected.
The smart heritage city
The infrastructure projects under the smart cities mission is planned for development of the city which will benefit the local community. However, in a place like Jaipur, plans such as better connectivity through metro, roads etc. will also serve as an added advantage for tourists. The mission has several projects that aim to promote tourism in the city with an increase of the average tourist time from 2.8 days to 3.5 days approximately in the coming four years. However, if the Smart city mission is planning to increase the average tourist time, it also is a good time to analyse how much more tourists the city can take in. Conducting studies in resource mapping and usage is important to take into consideration so that there's fair distribution between the local population and the tourists. The measures that will be taken under the smart city project will have an impact on the local community and the heritage which is more than 100 years old. The smart city project is said to be guided by a ‘heritage vision’, ensuring the absence of a conflict between urbanisation and conservation.
Looking at the UNESCO tag as well, other studies have often criticised it for attracting mass tourism despite its purpose to the contrary, not to attract mass tourism (Global Heritage Fund, 2015; Hunt, 2012; Usborne, 2009), which may create damage to the World Heritage (e.g. loss of cultural heritage, economic dependence, ecological degradation, intentional damage) (Fien, et al., 2015; Drdácký & Drdácký, 2011). Some articles speak about the mass tourism at UNESCO at heritage sites which have left the local community with no option but to engage in tourism and also give in their residential areas for tourist establishments. One of the article says -
Destinations are realizing that tourism management is an essential part of a good quality of life for residents. It’s just that not many destinations make wise decisions when the promise of tourism profits make wise choices less attractive. - Jason Clampet
There’s a need to look at conservation of the heritage spaces with a more holistic lens and also understand the difference between built heritage and living heritage. When incorporating these democratic means of planning, local communities become the centre of all discussions related to heritage and consequently tourism planning in these spaces. In a conversation with Tarun Bansal, a budget hotel chain owner in Jaipur, Bansal noted that the smart city as well as the UNESCO heritage conservation should have consultations with the local community, business owners in the walled city. He continued to say that they know the best as they’ve been residing or conducting business for a long time and they carry the essence of the cultural traditions with them.
So when planning the conservation strategies of the site to fulfil the ‘outstanding universal value’, one of the most important considerations would be the active participation of the various stakeholders in that place.
The communities, also being custodians of the heritage, are the lifeline of any successful management of heritage.
The complexities are not just because of the two tags - World heritage site and the smart city - it is also because of the living and intangible heritage of Jaipur. The intangible heritage is rooted in the local communities and their tradition and therefore planning of tourism development within their area which comes with the heritage tag is essential and upholds the tenets of sustainable and ethical tourism. Street vendors, shopkeepers, restaurant owners and workers and even people who are residents. These large scale projects affect the livelihoods of the people in these areas as noted earlier in the article. How do we then plan a model wherein all the stakeholders can participate? Since the planning for the conservation of the Jaipur city post UNESCO tag is in its nascent stage this is the question that must be central to taking decisions pertaining to conservation and tourism.