Highlighting the role of travellers and travel operators, Dipak Deva, Managing Director of TCI -SITA, pens down his suggestions for a greener, smarter and responsible tourism.
“No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” – Sir. David Attenborough
I believe that it is the right of the future generations to experience the beauty and majesty of the planet as we have had the privilege of seeing it. Sustainability needs to be an active element of every tour operator and travel service provider’s operational strategy and an active element of their business model.
There have always been some very committed individuals who have believed in the philosophy of sustainability and have built their business models around it. Kerala has so many examples as it’s a world leader in its efforts towards responsible tourism. Jose Dominic of CGH Earth has been vocal about it for years now. Like him, we have some fine examples in almost every state. Rajasthan has some good businesses that are run with the principles of sustainability. In 2008, the then Eco Tourism Society even laid down some guidelines.
However, a greater, concerted commitment is needed from all stakeholders, especially from those in the Domestic Tourism space and large chain hotels.
We understand our responsibility as a leader in the inbound space and our core values have always dictated a responsible tourism model. A resolute effort was made in 2016 when we launched our sustainability measurement criteria for excursions and tours. You will be pleased to know that our consumption of sustainable tours has gone up by 55per cent in the last three years itself. I am extremely proud that we are able to offer products that have been rated as per our sustainability index – a first in the Indian Travel Industry.
Environmental degradation is a serious threat and unless we implement sustainable policies strictly, we will fail to nurture our planet.
The role of state tourism boards and India Tourism is crucial in implementing sustainable practices and policies. While approving new businesses and tourism projects, it is imperative that sustainability guidelines are kept in mind.
Environmental taxes, where applied, should be fair and non-discriminatory. They should be carefully thought through to minimise their impact on economic development and revenues must be ploughed back to further environment improvement programmes.
RTSOI and like-minded bodies must lobby for greener options and sustainable practices at every level, train and educate and help create awareness, as it is the only way forward.
Awareness, education and training are paramount to implementing any policy, but people can come up with interesting ideas to incentivise the practices. Swedish Tourism Board came up with a lovely incentive for its tourists – a free cake for those cycling in their cities rather than using carbon burning modes of transport.
Visit Flanders, the tourism organisation representing Northern Belgium used local inputs to rethink its mission by creating an “economy of meaning”, that includes among other initiatives, linking visitors with locals who share their passions for things like history or food and making story telling central to its sites. Community involvement can be a big incentive, and it’s sustainable.
Tour Operators can be incentivised with certifications and rebate on taxes for following a certain level of sustainability.
Travellers, both domestic & International could be encouraged to use more trains and greener modes of transport. Public transport infra-structure could be vastly improved to supplement and encourage tourists.
Eventually as Tourism numbers grow, all stakeholders need to start with a simple set of guidelines for themselves that takes full cognizance of current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.
Ultimately, the destination has to benefit, local host communities need to feel involved and employed. Kerala’s initiatives could be replicated in other states as is perhaps being done by M.P Tourism.
The carrying capacity of destinations must be optimised with proper studying of data. This will benefit all stakeholders and at the same time, Over Tourism must be avoided at all costs.
Implementation of policies and to a large extent, self-regulation is a challenge. Travellers need to make the right choices – choose sustainable travel options, accommodation, and excursions.
Focus on domestic travellers by creating awareness on the negative impact of unsustainable practices that contribute to the degradation of environment and disrespect local communities.
Skill Development of Rural communities is paramount to engaging them at various levels in tourism. Some mechanism needs to be formed to train them as guides, wildlife naturalists, drivers, hotel managers etc. India needs to tap its full potential; there is so much we can do. Resorts and hotel owners must absolutely have a large section of their workforce sourced locally. Guides, experience providers, drivers etc. must be local.
Also, involvement of the rural / local community at various levels should be encouraged. Guest amenities, gifts and food should be procured locally as far as possible. Buy local, eat local and give back to the community you are visiting.
Sustainability is not a choice but a necessity. We are sitting on a time bomb with environmental degradation and climate change is real.
In fact, culmination of all sustainable efforts is eventually to move from a sustainable to a regenerative model of tourism where we can preserve the destinations for future generations in a better condition than today.
We need to take steady strides towards making travel greener, smarter, developmental, and more responsible. Promote quality over quantity and make the right choices to achieve this futuristic concept.
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