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Regulations Are Imperative for Sustainable Tourism in Ladakh

Overland Escape, established in August 1999, stands as a beacon in the realm of travel companies, spearheading the marketing of Ladakh globally and within India. With a steadfast commitment to bolstering Ladakh’s economy, this pioneering enterprise collaborates diligently with partners both domestically and abroad. Since its inception, Overland Escape has fostered amicable relations and cooperation within the travel industry, crafting bespoke tour packages for Ladakh, Kashmir, Himachal, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet, distinguished by their competitive pricing and itineraries.

Anchored by a robust quality management system, the company champions the preservation of destination character, safeguarding diverse cultures and traditions while nurturing a profound passion for exploration. Committed to environmental stewardship, Overland Escape spearheads initiatives like the annual garbage cleaning trek, reinforcing its dedication to conservation. Embracing a philosophy of empowerment, the company prioritizes the training and employment of local personnel, enriching visitor experiences and fortifying local economies. With an unwavering focus on enhancing customer efficiency, productivity, and success, Overland Escape stands as a dependable ally, poised to elevate travel experiences and leave an indelible mark on the landscape of exploration.

During a special conversation with The Interview World, Tundup Dorjey, the Managing Director of Overland Escape at SATTE 2024, highlights his company’s dedication to offering exceptional experiences for tourists. He emphasizes the importance of policy intervention to ensure the sustainability of tourism in Ladakh. Now, let’s delve into the key insights from his interview.

Q: What unique experiences and services does your destination management company offer to travellers?

A: For more than twenty-five years, we’ve served as Ladakh’s premier destination management company (DMC). As an adventure tour specialist, we cater to adventurous souls, nature lovers, thrill-seekers, and curious explorers seeking unique, off-the-beaten-path experiences. Our repertoire includes a diverse array of activities: trekking, mountaineering, white water rafting, wildlife safaris, jeep expeditions, mountain biking, spiritual journeys, cultural immersions, educational excursions, community-based tourism, leisurely holidays, and more—all perfectly tailored to Ladakh’s pristine ecosystem.

In Ladakh, we excel in delivering value-added services and unforgettable experiences to travellers. Through meticulously crafted venue-specific packages, we ensure that every encounter leaves a lasting impression on our guests.

Q: What is the annual number of foreign tourists visiting Ladakh?

A: Our focus isn’t limited to any particular market or foreign country; rather, we cater to both domestic and international tourists alike. Throughout peak seasons, our destination attracts a substantial influx, typically ranging between 380,000 to 400,000 tourists. Among this vibrant crowd, a notable proportion consists of approximately 85,000 to 90,000 foreign visitors, highlighting the diverse appeal and global recognition of our location. This mix of domestic and international tourists adds vibrancy to our tourism landscape, fostering cultural exchange and economic growth while enriching the overall experience for all who visit our destination.

Q: What’s the best time in a year to visit Ladakh?

A: The prime time to experience Ladakh’s awe-inspiring beauty is nestled within the summer months, spanning from May through September. During this period, the weather is pleasantly mild, and the region’s roads become more accessible, facilitating seamless exploration. As October approaches, the season gracefully transitions to its end. These months offer the gift of clear skies, unveiling the majestic Himalayas in all their glory, creating an ideal backdrop for a plethora of outdoor adventures, including trekking and sightseeing.

Moreover, cultural festivities such as the Hemis Festival in July and the Ladakh Festival in September infuse the air with vibrancy, adding a deeper layer of cultural richness to the journey. However, given Ladakh’s popularity among tourists during this peak season, meticulous planning becomes imperative to ensure a smooth and fulfilling experience amidst the region’s bustling tourist scene. Embracing Ladakh during its summer splendor promises unforgettable memories and unparalleled experiences amidst its breathtaking landscapes and vibrant culture.

Q: What are the available hospitality amenities and infrastructure in Ladakh catering to tourists?

A: Recently, domestic tourism has surged, particularly in Ladakh, which was previously renowned for adventurous tourism. Adventurous travellers typically eschewed hotels, opting instead to stay in camps near their preferred spots. However, since the late nineties, following the Kargil war, Ladakh gained attention from domestic tourists. This newfound interest was further fuelled by the portrayal of Ladakh’s natural beauty in the movie “3 Idiots,” including its iconic Pangong Tso Lake.

Consequently, as families began to explore Ladakh, the need for hotels arose. Hotels became an integral part of the domestic tourist experience, prompting the development of various categories, including 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star accommodations. Alongside lodging, transportation infrastructure also saw significant improvements, solidifying hotels and transportation as vital components of Ladakh’s tourism industry.

Q: How has the tourism sector in Ladakh changed visibly since the abrogation of Article 370?

A: Following the abrogation of Article 370, Ladakh underwent a significant geographic transformation, transitioning from being a district in Jammu & Kashmir to becoming an independent Union Territory of India. This shift is akin to moving from a district status to that of a state. Consequently, funds have begun flowing into Ladakh to support its developmental initiatives. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this development trajectory, causing numerous projects to come to a standstill. Moreover, restrictions on both domestic and international travel due to the pandemic adversely affected the tourism sector in Ladakh. Consequently, in terms of overall impact, the difference isn’t quite evident. Nonetheless, there have been signs of improvement in the situation there.

Q: How are the government and local communities working together to maintain Ladakh’s ecological integrity and sustainability in the face of increasing adventure tourism?

A: Ladakh’s carrying capacity is quite limited, and its environment is extremely fragile. The region isn’t equipped to handle a large influx of tourists. Consequently, restrictions are now being imposed on the locals themselves. Recently, Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) have been signed between hotel associations and travel agency associations, urging locals to refrain from constructing large hotels. Ideally, hotels should have no more than 20 to 30 rooms.

There’s a growing prioritization of environmental concerns over tourism. Both locals and tourism activities are being subjected to restrictions. Given the abundance of hotels already present, further hotel development is unnecessary. In areas like Pangong and Leh, there’s already an overabundance of hotels. To ensure the sustainable development of tourism in Ladakh, stringent regulations are imperative. Without proper oversight, the region risks facing severe water shortages if tourism is allowed to expand indiscriminately.

The Dynamic Team Behind Overland Escape
The Dynamic Team Behind Overland Escape
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