Santhosh pointed out the complexities of slum tourism, and ecotourism itself is a contested issue. Ecotourism extends past slum areas, and into any area where ecological or environmental factors are at play. Ecosphere is an organization that approaches this, according to this article in Express Travel World, through “the triple bottom-line of economic empowerment, conservation and development in the Spiti valley,” a region in Himachal Pradesh.
The article details how Ecosphere came about and their unconventional approach of conducting an analysis of tourists to understand their interests, and then working with the community to train them as travel professionals and to learn how to display their local and cultural assets.
Ecosphere endeavours to make tourism profitable for the community, its culture and ecology. The objective of the initiative is to develop unique, authentic and reliable tourism products and activities, link them to community livelihoods and conservation of culture and nature. This not only provides the community with a sustainable source of income but also serves as an incentive to conserve their unique natural and cultural heritage and environment.
Perhaps this model (and no doubt others must exist) for tourism can be applied to other places in India as well. These ventures can point the way to finding a balance between tourism, preserving local cultures, and using the profit in non-exploitative manner.