In the present day, traveling plays a highly significant role in the life of almost every person across the globe. Originated as a way to search food, security, shelter, and better habitat, it subsequently transformed into a source of experience, knowledge of the outside world, and entertainment. The tourism industry is currently regarded as one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors worldwide and the main driver of economic growth for a substantial number of countries. In addition, this remarkable social and economic phenomenon is served as the generation of employment and foreign exchange for a considerable number of states across the globe.
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At the same time, mass tourism is subsequently losing its leading positions due to its commonplaceness and the excessive use of natural and human resources. In turn, eco-tourism as the nature-based form of traditional tourism currently gain popularity and has considerable potential for successful development in the future. In general, eco-tourism focuses on the most appropriate practices that will be as safe and beneficial for nature, visitors, local communities, and the tourism industry as possible. However, the potential of eco-tourism should be evaluated in order to use appropriate strategies for its implementation. In addition, every country has its own potential, peculiarities, and opportunities for the development of eco-tourism.
Objective and Specific Research Question
The purpose of this work is to examine the concept of eco-tourism, its main principles, forms, and rationale for development in details. In addition, the paper investigates the current state of the tourism and eco-tourism industry in India and the reasons of its successful growth. Using the example of the state of Andhra Pradesh in order to be more specific about the potential of eco-tourism in such a big country as India, the research aims to answer the question: May eco-tourism be regarded as an industry with a huge potential and multiple opportunities?
Relevance and Current Research Status
Due to the growing popularity of eco-tourism, a considerable number of scholars conduct researches in order to evaluate the potential of this sector in general and in different countries on the basis of their peculiarities, in particular. There are multiple researches dedicated to the examination of the eco-tourism’s development in India. At the same time, this paper may add new information concerning the strategies of the development of eco-tourism in Andhra Pradesh to the data already available. In addition, the significance of this work is determined by its availability to use its findings for the investigation of the eco-tourism in other countries.
The method applied to the current research implies the critical analysis of peer-reviewed articles dedicated to eco-tourism, eco-tourism in India, and eco-tourism in Andhra Pradesh. The search of articles was conducted by the author through electronic databases with the consideration of articles’ dates, relevance, and reliability.
Concept of Eco-Tourism
In general, tourism may be defined as people’s temporary movement from their permanent place of residence to outside places for the purpose of work or leisure and with an obligatory intention to return. As the world is “unparalleled in its beauty, uniqueness, rich culture and history,” tourism is currently regarded as one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors worldwide and the main driver of economic growth for a substantial number of countries across the globe (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017, p. 437). According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, tourism provides 1 in 11 job positions and contributes 9% of the GDP, 6% of the world’s total exports, and $1.5 trillion in global receipts (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017). In terms of International Tourist Arrivals (ITAs) and Tourism Receipts, the most popular destinations include the United States, Spain, China, France, Macao (China), Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Thailand, and Hong Kong (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017).
Definition of Eco-Tourism
The concept of eco-tourism that appeared in the late 1970s and subsequently gained popularity generally refers to all nature-based forms of traditional tourism (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017). According to the common version of this concept’s appearance, first eco-tours in history were organized by the Canadian government (Fennell, 2020). Placed around the Trans-Canada Highway, these tours were developed on the basis of various ecological zones that could be found along the road (Fennell, 2020). Despite a lack of sustainability and community development obligatory attached to modern eco-tourism, the Canadian archetype was considerably progressive for its time. Its implementation was determined by the desire of the Canadian government to allow both Canadian and foreign tourists to appreciate the country’s human-land relationships through the interpretation and investigation of its environment.
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In the present day, nature-based tourism implies traveling with the purpose to view and enjoy the natural environment, such as safari, bird watching, or hiking. At the same time, eco-tourism involves visiting places in order to study, learn about the locality’s landscape, flora, fauna, or cultural artifacts, and carry out various activities in an environmentally friendly manner (Hameed & Khalid, 2018). According to the definition given by the Ecotourism Society, eco-tourism is a “purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural history of the environment, taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem while producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people” (Arachchi, et al., 2015, p. 214). The main motivation of eco-tourists is “the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures” (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017, p. 438). In general, eco-tourism implies the accommodation and entertainment of visitors in a minimally destructive or intrusive for the environment way and the support of the location’s native cultures.
Directed towards natural, especially exotic, environments, this responsible travel aims to support the conservation of wildlife and improve the lives of people through the generation of economic benefits for recipient countries. On the basis of the general principles of sustainability with a focus on community participation, eco-tourism contributes to the development of entrepreneurial skills at the country’s local level (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017). Moreover, it connects community members with the outside world in particular ways that create tolerance, appreciation, knowledge, and understanding of other peoples.
Characteristics of Eco-Tourism
Besides the fundamental principles of eco-tourism that imply sustainability, economic benefits for recipient countries and the improvement of the local communities’ well-being, the conservation of wildlife, and limited use of natural resources, eco-tourism possesses several additional functional characteristics. First of all, the peculiar feature of eco-tourism is more sustainable tourist accommodation in comparison with traditional tourism (Arachchi, et al., 2015). In general, an eco-resort is regarded as an establishment where the provision of hospitality services to tourists is combined with the observation of the principles of ecotourism. As a matter of fact, all eco-resorts imitate the entrepreneurialism and inventive plans of business founders, “rather than large multinational companies” (Arachchi, et al., 2015, p. 214). As eco-resorts are frequently reliant on the government-controlled reserves’ appropriate management, they traditionally contribute to the maintenance of officially protected areas, trail maintenance, clean-up days, and volunteer research programs. There are eight main principles of eco-tourism that include:
- Natural area focus (Eco-tourism should concentrate on providing visitors with the opportunity to experience nature individually and directly);
- Interpretation (Eco-tourism should not provide opportunities to experience the natural environment in ways that will lead to its better understanding, respect, and people’s satisfaction);
- Environmental sustainability practice (It goes without saying that eco-tourism should focus on the most appropriate practices that will be as safe for nature and local communities as possible);
- Contribution to conservation (One of the main goals of eco-tourism is the conservation of natural resources and areas);
- Cultural Respect (Eco-tourism should contribute to the promotion of respect and understanding of local cultures);
- Benefiting local communities (With the help of eco-tourism, local communities should be provided with endless help and support);
- Consumer expectations (The conservation of wildlife and support of local communities should be implemented along with the satisfaction of consumers’ needs);
- Responsible marketing (Eco-tourism should be marketed in an ethically appropriate, sincere, and honest way to form practical expectations and earn people’s trust) (Arachchi, et al., 2015).
Concerning peculiarities related to performance, an eco-tourism company may be recognized as a purely monopolistic competitor that gives eco-tourism practices “as a marketing strategy to set it eliminating the competition” (Arachchi, et al., 2015, p. 2014). In general, this organization should inevitably obtain substantial positive economic profits that may improve particular incentives to reduce tourism-related destructive externalities and preserve resources. Observing the present company’s accomplishment, other sites will enter the market and offer similar tours. In turn, the eco-resort operator may try to restrict external costs in order to cut expenses and limit costly actions to avoid pollution, congestion, and erosion (Arachchi, et al., 2015). Despite the fact that eco-tourism may not satisfy the expectations of those customers who prefer traditional tourism, it may and will contribute to the education of globally growing middle class who travel across their own countries, international travelers, and local communities who host eco-tourists. It is highly essential to apply genuine eco-tourism practices to earn the trust of customers who consider the significance of sustainable traveling and recreation.
Forms of Eco-Tourism
On the basis of its context, nature, and practices and in relation to the particular region’s characteristics, eco-tourism is divided into the following types:
- Community-based eco-tourism. This form of eco-tourism implies the promotion of biodiversity conservation, local income, and cultural preservation in remote areas (Anup, 2017). In turn, the implementation of community-based tourism projects requires community empowerment, the improvement of accessibility, the incorporation of tourism products on the basis of natural resources, and the liberalization of price policy. In addition, community-based eco-tourism focuses on the development of local communities and ecological sustainability as environmental responsibility and sensitivity provide social, economic, and political benefits to local communities. That is why for this type of tourism, local employment, control, and initiation are necessary.
- Sustainable eco-tourism. This form of eco-tourism implies the limitation of a negative impact on the environment, the minimization of negative externalities, the promotion of cultural integrity, and the support of income generation and effective resource management. It goes without saying that developing countries with unique natural environments and cultures may take advantage of sustainable eco-tourism on a first-priority basis (Anup, 2017). Sustainable eco-tourism programs consider all social, economic, and environmental aspects and generate employment for unskilled employees in rural areas through community-based tourism activities dedicated to the preservation of natural eco-systems. In addition, respect to local traditions and rational use of natural resources should be prioritized in order to attain sustainability.
- Ecosystem eco-tourism. In general, the ecosystem includes the physical environment, living organisms, and their feedbacks and interactions. In ecosystem eco-tourism, its basic elements are provided by predation, herbivory, parasitism, and mutualism between abiotic and biotic components (Anup, 2017). While this type of eco-tourism does not exclude the commercial exploitation of the ecosystem, “it depends on integrated management philosophy considering beneficiaries, socioeconomic constraints and impacts on the resource base within a realistic spatial and temporal scale” (Anup, 2017, p. 6). Ecosystem eco-tourism aims to promote tourism activities that may contribute to the maintenance of the ecosystem’s structures and functions. Moreover, it requires the management of biological diversity and entire ecosystems in connection with the tourism experience.
- Rural eco-tourism. This type of tourism promotes the combination of tourism and agriculture that provides the local peasantry with better living conditions, more profit, and employment opportunities. Originated in Europe, it currently plays a highly positive role in the development of rural culture and economy through simple entertainment, agricultural sightseeing, and traditional accommodation (Anup, 2017). Rural eco-tourism regards peasantry lifestyle, agricultural products, traditional folk customs, and rural reflections and environment as the sources of tourists’ attraction.
- Cultural eco-tourism. In general, cultural eco-tourism may be regarded as “one of the most popular forms of ecotourism developed worldwide from the historical past” (Anup, 2017, p. 7). Its main components include historical buildings, cultural monuments, religious places, popular sculptures and arts, and traditional museums. In cultural eco-tourism, the major sources of visitors’ attraction are traditions, religious beliefs, rituals, occasions, festivals, language, literature, and music. This type of eco-tourism focuses on the necessity to preserve the cultural traditions of minorities and improve the quality of local communities’ lives.
Rationale for the Development of Eco-Tourism
It goes without saying that eco-tourism may be regarded as a sub-component of general sustainable tourism. Its perceived potential as a specific tool for effective sustainable development makes eco-tourism highly attractive for developing countries (Hameed & Khalid, 2018). Their local economic activities are frequently connected with cultural heritage, natural resources, and rural lifestyle. At the same time, a harmonious, symbiotic, and complex relationship between tourist activities and the environment is possible when the philosophy of sustainable tourism will be reflected in careful planning, appropriate policies, and tactful practicum (Hameed & Khalid, 2018). Carefully planned, maintained, and operated, especially village-based, sites that include local participation may provide substantial direct benefits that may distract attention from less sustainable activities that waste cultural and natural resources. Eco-tourism is suitable for various kinds of environments as is requires particular elements in their cultural and natural landscape, such as water, vegetation, clean air, vista, and topography (Hameed & Khalid, 2018). With natural assets, ecological raw materials, and exotic destinations, eco-tourism represents a highly attractive force.
Another considerable advantage of eco-tourism is related to its ability to help in community development through the provision of “the alternate source of livelihood to the local community which is more sustainable” (Hameed & Khalid, 2018, p. 46). This type of tourism aims to conserve biological diversity and ecological environment and maintain the sustainable use of natural resources in order to gain economic benefits for local communities and bring empowering experience to travelers. In other words, the achievement of the goals in eco-tourism that requires the involvement of recipient countries in the conservation of the area’s ecology and biodiversity subsequently provides substantive economic incentives for these countries. Therefore, among the major benefits of eco-tourism, it is necessary to mention the following arguments:
- The considerable contribution of eco-tourism in the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity;
- The promotion of responsible actions from tourists and the industry of tourism in general;
- The sustainment of the local people’s well-being;
- The promotion of small and medium local tourism enterprises;
- The lowest possible consumption of natural resources (Hameed & Khalid, 2018);
- The promotion of the recipient countries’ local participation for economic growth and new business opportunities (Wondirad, et al., 2018);
- The generation of people’s positive experience and environmentally friendly behavior.
Eco-Tourism in India
Indian Tourism: General Background
In fact, tourism has always been a significant integral part of Indian traditions and culture. As the successful development of tourism is determined by several imperative factors that include marketing, product enhancement, human resource development, and regulations, on the basis of these criteria, tourism in India may be regarded as a high-potential sector. In the present day, it is regarded as one of the country’s fastest-growing service industries with great potential for its diversification and expansion in the future (Venkatesh & Raj, 2016). In addition, tourism plays a highly significant role in the country’s economic development and creates multiple employment opportunities for a large number of citizens. Table 1 and Table 2 contain the data from the 2015-2016 annual report of the Ministry of Tourism that reflect the contribution of tourism in the country’s GPD and employment (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017). In addition, according to the report of The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2019, the tourism sector generated 6,8% or $194 billion of India’s GDP and supported almost 40 million jobs or 8% of total employment (Invest India, 2020). The amounts of foreign exchange, earned by the tourism industry, help to stabilize the economy and contribute to India’s social development, as well.
Table 1. Contribution in GDP. (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017, p. 440).
|Year(s)||Direct Contribution||Indirect Contribution||Total|
Table 2. Contribution in Employment. (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017, p. 441).
|Year(s)||Direct Contribution||Indirect Contribution||Total|
The size of the country and its geographic, natural, artistic, and cultural diversity offers impressive opportunities for traveling. As a matter of fact, the Indian government is substantively involved in the development of the country’s tourism sector. Due to its aggressive marketing measures and promotion, the influx of tourism is expected to increase subsequently. In addition, the tourism sector of India additionally benefits from the introduction and implementation of new types of tourism. For instance, in recent years, medical tourism has gained popularity among the middle-class people from developed countries as India has major cost, knowledge, historical, and cultural advantages in this field in comparison with other countries (Venkatesh & Raj, 2016). In addition, the Indian health care industry offers technological advancement, the most advanced equipment, qualified medical personnel, long-term experience in medicine, and the combination of both traditional and modern practices (Venkatesh & Raj, 2016). Moreover, India with its Himalayas and mighty rivers holds considerable potential in cruise and adventure tourism. Other potential forms of tourism in India include pilgrimage tourism, sports tourism, agricultural tourism, MICE-tourism, and heritage tourism.
Factors of Growth
As previously mentioned, the travel and tourism industry of India is currently developing at a quick rate. According to the annual Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum, in 2013, India ranked 65th globally and 11th in the Asia Pacific Region out of 140 economies on the basis of the Competitiveness Index in the sphere of tourism and travel (Subash, 2015). In the present day, the industry’s growth is determined by the following specific drivers:
- Rising income levels and healthy general economic growth. According to the study conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), the Indian middle-class population is expected to increase up to 114 million by 2025-2026 (Subash, 2015). The increasing number of middle-class households along with favorable economic growth leads to “increasing levels of disposable income with increased affinity for leisure travel” (Subash, 2015, p. 10).
- Changing consumer lifestyles. As more than 65% of the Indian population fall in the age group of 15-64 years and disposable income levels are rising, more and more Indian travelers currently have a wish to explore new destinations and discover attractive sites across the country (Subash, 2015).
- Easy finance availability. The availability of regular holidays on the basis of Equated Monthly Installments (EMI) and the successful progressive adoption of credit culture substantially contribute to the development of tourism in India.
- Diverse product offerings. Tourism growth is additionally driven by the availability of its various forms that include rural, medical, adventure, heritage, and pilgrimage tourism.
- Government initiatives and policy support. India’s government lends considerable support to the country’s tourism sector and increasing Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) substantively contribute to the industry’s growth. In addition, supportive policy actions include specific plans of visa extension on arrival scheme for other countries, 100% FDI, and five-year tax holidays for hotels in the mid-price segment located around UNESCO World Heritage sites (Subash, 2015).
- Geographical diversity and rich natural and cultural resources. With a 7000 km-long coastline, 28 sites of world cultural heritage, and 25 biogeographic zones, India offers an excellent opportunity to explore its nature and people’s cultures through multiple traditions, religions, fairs, and festivals (Subash, 2015).
- The host nation for multiple international events. The country’s organizational potential and the level of general development currently make India “the preferred nation for hosting of major international events” (Subash, 2015, p. 11). That is why, Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism is subsequently developing in the country as well.
Along with other types of tourism, eco-tourism is currently developing and increasing in popularity in India. As environmental consciousness and awareness among tourists increase all over the world, private players in cooperation with the government promote tour packages across the country with a stay in eco-friendly hotels (Venkatesh & Raj, 2016). Concerning destinations, Thenmala in Kollam district of Kerala may be regarded as one of the best examples of appropriately managed eco-tours in India (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017). Other popular places include national parks and villages in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Assam, Goa, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017). Despite the rapid growth and development of India’s tourism industry, traditional mass tourism is gradually losing its leading positions. In order to address this issue, the government and business sector currently refocus to explore the opportunities of sustainable tourism. Considerable elements that may support this approach include the country’s natural attractions, unique cultural variety, and experience in the organization of small group package tours.
Andhra Pradesh that is usually called a Sun Rise State regularly attracts visitors from all over the world as it offers climax climate, a breathtaking experience of nature, and rich culture of local communities. This region has gained popularity, and Table 3 reflects how tourist flow to Andhra Pradesh has increased since 2014-2015 (Prakash, et al., 2020). The state’s prominent eco-tourism spots include Maredumilli, Papikondalu, Kolleru, Bhavani, Rampa, Kondapalli, and Papikondalu (Prakash, et al., 2020). In the state of Andhra Pradesh, it is necessary to distinguish Maredumilli, a village and a Mandal in East Godavari District, as a highly appropriate place for eco-tourism, especially for community-based eco-tourism. Geographically, East Godavari District is encapsulated in a criss-crossed way by palm-fringed canals and rivers 80 km far away from Rajahmundry (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017).
Table 3. Annual Arrivals to Andhra Pradesh (in millions). (Prakash, et al., 2020, p. 19).
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|Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA)||2014-2015||2015-2016||2016-2017||2017-2018||2018-2019|
|Domestic Tourist Arrivals||93.3||121.6||153.2||165.43||194.7|
|Overseas Tourist Arrivals||0.07||0.24||0.34||0.27||0.28|
The key attractions of the region include subtropical forests with rich flora and fauna, swaying paddy fields, multiple streams cascading down the rocks, undulating hilly terrain, golden bamboo and pine clumps, mango groves, waterfalls, fragrant medicinal plants, and a wide variety of wild bananas, ferns, and orchids. The most popular spots of Andhra Pradesh that regularly attract a substantial number of tourists from all over the world are Nandanavanam Ethno Medical Awareness Centre, Jala Tarangini, coffee and pepper plantations, Rampa, Swarnadhara, and Jalatarangini Waterfalls, Vali Sugriva Medicinal Plants Conservation Area, an ancient temple of Lord Shiva, Jungle Star, and Madanikunj-Vihara Sthal (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017).
The eco-tourism project of Andhra Pradesh was designed to provide the development of the region in the aspect of travel and tourism. It focuses on the rural communities’ environmental assets, their local traditions, ethnic cuisine, and art. In general, the fundamental objectives of this project are:
- The providing of eco-tourism’s economic benefits for the region;
- The region’s sustainable development in the future;
- The reduction of poverty and economic empowerment;
- The minimization of adverse ecological impacts connected with tourism and the maximization of added value;
- The revival of tribal culture;
- The regeneration of tribal crafts and arts;
- The preservation of existing local culture;
- The encouragement of gender equality;
- The development of awareness concerning the social and economic benefits of eco-tourism for local communities.
In general, promotional strategies include the segmentation of visitors’ specific subgroups on the basis of activities, product diversification, communication between the destination and the tourism industry in general, well-planned community participation, and all stakeholders’ properly coordinated efforts. Concerning actual planning, the government of Andhra Pradesh introduced the following initiatives and directions dedicated to the promotion of eco-tourism in the region:
- The creation of eco-tourism parks in every district and the subsequent transformation of forest lands into bio-diversity conservation zones (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017);
- The development of reservoirs in Kadapa and Gandikota;
- The modernization of Bhavani Islands in order to make them suitable for sustainable eco-tourism;
- The organization of the Flamingo Festival in Nellore district in Nelapattu and Pulicat lakes;
- The organization of safari rides in Tirupati and Visakhapatnam zoological parks;
- Control over irrigation projects related to Nagarjuna Sagar;
- The transformation of Buddhist Monasteries (Amaravati) into eco-tourism destinations;
- The development of the Kakinada-Konaseema tourism project (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017);
- The creation of 6 beaches in the port city of Visakhapatnam and the development of 39 beach resorts across the state (Goodwin & Chaudhary, 2017);
- The construction of water spots at all beaches across the state.
In general, eco-tourism involves visiting places in order to study, learn about the locality’s landscape, flora, fauna, or cultural artifacts, and carry out various activities in an environmentally friendly manner. It is defined as a purposeful travel to natural areas in order to understand the environment’s culture and natural history considering not to alter the ecosystem’s integrity while producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people. Eco-tourism implies the accommodation and entertainment of visitors in a minimally destructive or intrusive for the environment way and the support of the location’s native cultures. According to its main principles, this type of tourism should concentrate on providing visitors with the opportunity to experience nature individually and directly, focus on the conservation of natural resources and areas, and promote the significance of local cultures in an ethically appropriate, sincere, and honest way. There are several forms of eco-tourism that include sustainable, community-based, ecosystem, rural, and cultural eco-tourism.
In India, the travel and tourism industry is currently developing at a quick rate. The size of the country and its geographic, natural, artistic, and cultural diversity offers impressive opportunities for traveling. As a matter of fact, the Indian government is substantively involved in the development of the country’s tourism sector. Due to its aggressive marketing measures and promotion, the influx of tourism is expected to increase subsequently. In addition, the tourism sector of India additionally benefits from the introduction and implementation of new types of tourism. Eco-tourism is currently developing and increasing in popularity in India as well. Andhra Pradesh is regarded as a highly popular community-based eco-tourism destination that regularly attracts visitors from all over the world as it offers climax climate, a breathtaking experience of nature, and rich culture of local communities. The eco-tourism project of Andhra Pradesh focuses on the rural communities’ environmental assets, their local traditions, ethnic cuisine, and art. In addition, its major objectives imply the economic support of local communities, the minimization of adverse ecological impacts connected with tourism, the reduction of poverty, and the revival of tribal culture.
Answer to the Research Question
On the basis of the current research and the research question (May eco-tourism be regarded as an industry with a huge potential and multiple opportunities?), it is possible to conclude that eco-tourism is a growing trend in the global tourism industry. Supported by governments and private businesses, it attracts a substantial number of people, support recipient countries, and contribute to the sustainable use of resources. Concerning India and the State of Andhra Pradesh, eco-tourism steadily holds leading market positions due to the region’s geographic position that provides natural diversity. In addition, eco-tourism will continue to develop in this territory due to multiple strategies and initiatives already introduced and partly implemented by the government of the state for the promotion of eco-tourism in the region.
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