The interest and the ability of people to travel make up the industry known as tourism. The term encompasses a large variety of travel, from pilgrimagesby devotees of Lord Pashupatinath come to his abode in theKathmandu Valley to worshippers of the sun who fly down to the Maldivian archipelago. Himal's interest in tourism arises not so much from the need to inform the potential tourist of the attractions and best 'deals' in SouthAsia, as the need to ensure that this industry lives up to its promise of spreading income amongst South Asia's people.
While keeping in mind the need to preserve the cultural and environmental attributes of the host countries and regions, tourism must be usedto: a) deliver maximum income from high-value tourism; and b) ensure the optimum equity in distributionof the income among the people.South Asia is rich in its untapped tourism potential, much of which canbe exploited only when there is true peace across this vast and variedregion. Even within the variously existing situations, however, it is possiblefor South Asia to be earning much more from domestic as wellas international tourism than it ispresently. The challenges to doingthis are as diverse as the peoplesand cultures of South Asia — from the very ideology of the state in Pakistan, to the Indian government's unwillingness to go for 'open skies', to Nepal and Sri Lanka's entrapment in the morass of high volume, low value tourism.
There may be something to be learnt from the fact that the tiniest states of South Asia, Bhutan and the Maldives, have the most dynamic tourism policies in the entire region—which leads us to believe that tourism is managed best when it is left to the 'local' communities—with control resting, for example, in Kumaon instead of Lucknow, the Khumbu instead of Kathmandu,Ladakh instead of Srinagar, and Chitral instead of Islamabad.
South Asia tourism is a vast arena, and in this issue we have but nibbled at the edges, hoping to present readers with some interesting aspects.Always, we must remember that tourism must be embraced so that it canserve the people of South Asia, and not South Asia 'serve' the tourist