‘Sustainable development is key to our survival’
For Jaisal Singh, Founder and Chairman, SUJAN, wildlife and tigers have been a way of life
Jaisal Singh considers himself fortunate to have spent a considerable part of his childhood in the wild, surrounded by his family of passionate conservationists. “It was impossible not to be influenced. My parents came to Ranthambhore in 1974 and it was a discovery of an otherwise little-known ‘Paradise’. Their pioneering work through filming and documentation of the tigers there as well as the great diversity of wildlife had a strong impact on the way the world came to see Ranthambhore. I first went to Ranthambhore at just eight weeks old. I spent much of my time there, often being rushed off from school in Delhi to track tigers,” reminisces Singh, Founder and Chairman of SUJÁN.
Having grown up in the wild, Singh knew well that tourism was bound to flourish in Ranthambhore and people coming from all across the globe in search of the majestic tiger when it was converted into a National Park. “I wanted to spend as much time as possible here and it was then that the idea of creating a tented camp – one that could become a model for positive impact and responsible tourism – came to me. The camp was conceived to bring to people an experiential world of Nature, environment and culture, where the simple pleasures of life are experienced with high level of quality, comfort and standards,” shares Singh who is also an author and conservationist. “I didn’t plan to be a hotelier. For me, wildlife and tigers have been a way of life,” he says.
Today, SUJÁN Sher Bagh represents the founding ethos of SUJÁN – unique experiences, combined with understated, elegant luxury with high levels of service and a model of tourism that gives back to the area in which it operates. “The respect for environment, people and Nature is our legacy which we continue to nurture. As a result, through SUJÁN, we have proven that a responsible tourism model of ethically sound and sustainable safari operations in unique areas of pristine wilderness, can benefit local communities and play a tangible role in preserving wildlife and their habitats,” he explains, adding, “Together, Anjali (my wife) and I have further built the brand to have three camps: SUJÁN Sher Bagh, Ranthambhore; SUJÁN JAWAI, Jawai Bandh and SUJÁN The Serai, Jaisalmer. Our safari and hospitality experiences to allow us to develop and support projects that protect wildlife habitat and existing wildlife populations along with supporting our local communities. These commitments have been at the forefront of our operations since inception and will remain our key focus always.”
Indian hospitality and its growth
Sharing views on the scope for growth in India’s hospitality sector, Singh says, “It’s about educating newer audiences and inspiring them with unique and impactful experiences at their doorstep. We have had one of our best seasons on record and that is purely from domestic tourism. For a lot of people who were confined indoors for months, the first place they wanted to head to was to the great outdoors and our camps are perfectly positioned for it.” He is quick to add that the younger generation has become a lot more engaged with Nature and wants to protect it and this is which is shaping family travel in India. “The Indian traveller has evolved – with many more clients seeking authentic, experiential travel now. Booking numbers point to this too,” Singh puts in.
The primary objective, says Singh, has always been to preserve and protect wild spaces in India, along with its heritage and culture. By staying at SUJÁN as a guest, one makes a direct contribution that allows SUJÁN to continue on a truly sustainable journey, committing revenues to secure conservation initiatives for generations. “A conservation contribution is added to each stay, per person, per night, as a contribution to our foundation. Through this contribution, every guest who stays with us is not only helping to conserve and expand natural habitats, but contributes to our conservation and community development projects,” he shares.
The conservation initiatives runs across several districts of Rajasthan with a focus on, but not limited to, the following tenets: conservation of biodiversity, holistic community development, and the preservation of culture and heritage. “Responsible tourism can, and ought to, play a considerable role in all of the aforementioned. Luxury tourism and conservation can and do go hand-in-hand,” he says.
Singh is one of the most perfect persons to know more about the challenges for sustainable tourism today as he has been a part of the wild since birth. “Our Government should make protection of our wild habitats and thus all that thrive in it a national priority and mission. Our human population and wildlife is wholly interdependent and it is time we realise it. From India’s water security to the air we breathe… Sustainable development is the key to our survival,” he feels.
To keep tourism sustainable, Singh suggests it is better to focus on how to make tourism more responsible. “To sustain something is to keep it in its current state and whilst I can proudly say SUJÁN has been a responsible enterprise since it began, much of the industry has a lot of catching up to do. Like the phrase ‘ecotourism’, sustainable tourism has become virtually meaningless as it is often tied to cursory efforts, which are very limited, rather than proven, genuine commitments, strategies, and actions that have a measurable positive impact,” he says, adding that governments, tourist boards, travel agents, hoteliers and the travellers themselves need to be more aware of and held accountable for their actual impact. “We all have an important role to play to ensure that tourism lives up to its promise to improve people’s livelihoods and protect the precious environments they depend upon. It has to be a collaborative effort,” says Singh.
Talking about his future plans, Singh says that expansion for them is tougher than others because as a brand they are not a cookie-cutter. “We don’t take one blueprint, build four properties and make a few ‘soft’ changes. Every property ‘must’ be different, from aesthetics to the experience. So that’s a limitation, as whatever we decided to do next will be entirely unique - but this is not a hindrance. We are exploring a host of interesting opportunities, within and outside Rajasthan. We have plans and we will be sharing them soon,” he concludes.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER MAY-JUNE 2022'
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