By Aftab Rana
Ecotourism is a form of responsible travel that takes place in and around natural areas and intends to contribute to conservation and enhance the livelihoods of the local people. Flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions in ecotourism. Ecotourism is often invoked as a way to serve both conservation ends and support local livelihoods and promote economic development. The concept of ecotourism has been pursued since the 80s as a model for responsible travel to vulnerable natural areas to benefit local people and contribute to conservation goals. An important element of ecotourism is the intention to foster appreciation for natural and cultural heritage among hosts and visitors through interpretation. This workshop provides knowledge and skills to understand the real concept of ecotourism and important elements of any ecotourism product. We will also try to explore the possibilities to apply the concept of ecotourism in Neelum Valley which is now under the increasing pressure of uncontrolled and unplanned tourism growth. EC required participants to list down possible eco-tourism initiatives that can be taken in the valley keeping in view the strengths and weaknesses. This culminated into a session where participants filled out forms and discussed possible initiatives with the workshop convener.