Cultural Roots of Tourism have always been Environment Friendly
‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ has always been in our DNA, decades ago tourism started around the ‘Step wells’ used by traders. These were not only gems in water conservation but aesthetically, a visual delight. We have since time immemorial known the value of developing tourism, securing the environment, as well as providing livelihoods to the people.
Incredible India is known for its deep cultural heritage, diversity, palaces, colours and cuisine. The world’s largest democracy offers diversity of religions and languages which is unique and unmatched. The Indian sub-continent is blessed with all types of topography and temperatures, myriad rivers, from deserts to green valleys to the highest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas.
The first session on Day-5 of the 5th edition of BW HOTELIER Indian Hospitality Awards and Summit, IHA 2020 was on ‘Heritage and Environmental Tourism – A reality check’ The panel discussion was moderated by Aman Nath, Founder & Chairman, Neemrana Hotels
Panellists included: H.H. Maharaja Gajsingh II of Jodhpur; Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar, Executive Director, HRH Group of Hotels; Abinash Manghani, CEO, WelcomHeritage; Jose Domenic, CEO, CGH Earth Group; Steve Borgia, CMD, INDeco Leisure Hotels
Pioneering Heritage Tourism
Enlightening us about the tenets of heritage and culture, Gajsingh elaborated, “In Rajasthan, pioneers were the founders of the heritage movement. Going forward we need to have a holistic definition of what environmental tourism is.”
On the environment and tourism, Manghani said, “There is a lack of ownership among stakeholders, therefore environmental issues take a backseat.” He went on to add that Covid has trigged circumstances that allowed us to reset the entire mode. People have been forced by nature into a space where they need to think differently.
Commenting on the statement, “Tourism is a partial destroyer of the environment,” Lakshyaraj Singh stated, “In the past we have been great preservers rather than destroyers of the environment. Going into the past there were reservoirs that were created, an eco-system was created through which civilisations have sustained.”
He went on to state that till the time the poverty of the mind is not addressed; you will not make progress.
Aman Nath agreed and said that we all need the vision of the erstwhile rulers as they were interested in ecology. He further added, “The country belongs to all of us and we are delighted that every part of India has so much to offer. India should be selling the kind of diversity, in which nobody is left behind.”
On the same topic Steve Borgia said, “Somewhere Corona has pushed us into that space which we should have been looking at before. Everybody is now looking at experiential holidays, they want to go to rural areas. They want to be alone in a fort or a palace. This is what we should have started concentrating on decades ago. Unfortunately, nowhere in the policy, mindset, or action plan of the government, be it the federal or state government, we had a focus on this. All these destinations have come about because of the efforts of individuals. There is someone who created a resort in a forest area, in green field or fort. Opportunity is phenomenal in India to work towards this kind of tourism, but only few passionate people took it forward.”
Some might say that tourism is a destroyer, it seems to be true also for destinations like the hill stations of Shimla Mussoorie and Nainital. Over tourism during the peak seasons in these destinations has created a shortage of resources for the local people. Also, the experience is lost out on the tourist if he is met with long traffic jams enroute to the destination. On the other hand, tourism is the main source of employment for many of these destinations. Aman Nath added that strong checks are required to stop over tourism.
The Kerala tourism story
Sharing their experience as an enterprise and an industry in Kerala, Jose Domenic said, “At the beginning, Kerala was a late starter in tourism. It had got the highest rank in the subcontinent in Human Development Index (HDI), tourism was a dividend of that. Initially for tourism to grow in Kerala, outside investment was refusing or afraid to come. So local entrepreneurs did what they could, which was in a manner which they knew, to be local. Thereby, indigenous, and small could become world class, that is the Kerala story. Tourism now has become the largest employer and revenue creator in the state. Statistics show that one out of three new jobs come out of tourism. Tourism has taught people how to maintain culture and preserve nature. It has contributed to rejuvenating an area, instilled confidence and has made people optimistic.”
Lakshyaraj Singh went on to say that today heritage hospitality that India offers is at par with the best in the world. We are sharing our homes where the true spirit of Indian hospitality cascades. “We are welcoming people into our homes.” Gaj Singh added that people want to feel a part of the heritage palaces. Abinash Manghani further stated, “Most millennials are looking for experiential travel and are willing to pay for it.”
Jose Domenic concluded “We all need to remember that tourism is an industry it’s about creating livelihoods. Tourism is not for the tourist but for the benefit you can provide to the destination, environment, and the community. That should be its primary focus and the priority of hierarchy.”
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