The rise and rise of Responsible tourism
Travel junkies across the world are now feeling safer to venture out, after being fully vaccinated. While Covid-19 has changed the way we perceive travel and culture, it also gave rise to a phenomenon based on sustainability, preservation of cultural and natural resources — responsible tourism.
“The pandemic has allowed us space to bring in disruptions, innovations, adapt sustainable alternatives and to use technology to bring about responsible and tangible business solutions. We anticipate that the immersive travel trend will pick up pace in a post-Covid world, with greater focus on sustainability and travelling responsibly,” opines Neliswa Nkani, hub head, South African Tourism.
But, responsible tourism is not the same as sustainable tourism. “Responsible travel has shifted from being a niche category to becoming intrinsic to all genres of travel. The pandemic made travellers think how their travel plans impact communities and ecosystems they interact with, while shining the spotlight on giving back to society,” says Ashish Dhruva, senior vice president, marketing and customer engagement, InterMiles.
Lifestyle influencer Sarah Zarein Raza feels being a conscious traveller can help uplift regional communities, their culture and economy. “Staying at local hostels/hotels makes my travel not just responsible but sustainable, too. It also benefits the city or country I am visiting,” she adds.
Also vouching for responsible travel is Gaurav Aggarwal, founder and CEO of Savaari Car Rentals. “Not only does offbeat travel lower carbon footprint in popular tourist places, it also ensures distribution of tourists to lesser-known destinations, and helps revive the local communities by promoting small businesses — hotels, homestays, art, handicrafts, cafes and restaurants,” Aggarwal adds.
Given the spurt in the number of consumers seeking sustainable travel experiences, businesses are signing up for various environment improvement initiatives. Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India, for instance, has signed RE100 (Renewable Energy) and EP100 (Energy Productivity), set targets to run on 100% renewable energy by 2050 and double energy productivity by 2030. “We’re also committed to the Science Based Target Initiative, which requires us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius. Our commitment towards water security, pursuing missions like Zero Liquid Discharge, Zero Waste to Landfill in addition to biodiversity, helps us contribute abundantly to responsible travel,” says Vivek Khanna, COO.
Even Hong Kong Tourism Board is stepping up its promotion of responsible tourism with the Great Outdoors Hong Kong campaign,that encourages locals and overseas visitors to explore green country side blessed with serene hiking trails, mountains, grasslands, beaches, or spectacular harbour views from a ferry to an outlying island. “To bolster visitor’s confidence in travelling here, they launched ‘Anti-epidemic Hygiene Measures Certification Scheme’ in partnership with the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency (HKQAA). Under this scheme, over 2900 organizations in tourism industry and related sectors will follow a standardized hygiene protocol to assure visitors of a safe and healthy stay,” says Puneet Kumar, Director, South Asia & Middle East Hong Kong Tourism Board.
“I think Indians had a fixation with Europe and America for a lot of time, but our own country has so many options to offer. From Kashmir in the north to the backwaters of Kerala and all those beautiful locations in the northeast. And when one makes a trip to these places, one must be very careful that one doesn’t ruin the environment, particularly purchasing any disposable plastic items when on these locations, let us not try to litter these spaces. I personally carry my India Circus copper bottle whenever I’m travelling. When one behaves like this, the place is well kept for the next batch of tourist that arrives,” says Krsna Mehta, designer.
Favouring the local community
Responsible tourism helps in generating employment among local communities. “Travellers can opt for local guides or workers from nearby villages or towns,” suggests Nkani. Also, tourists can have a more enriching experience by forming meaningful connections with locals to understand cultural, social and environmental issues prevailing in the particular region. This is certainly a win-win situation.
Preservation of the environment
Start with simple steps such as walking instead of driving, and carrying reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones. “Renting bicycles or hopping onto local transport is another great way to reduce carbon footprint,” says Nkani. To promote responsible travel, it is also imperative that mobility companies switch to CNG cars. They are not only eco-friendly; they are more cost-effective, too. “I feel is that you can reduce your carbon footprint significantly by going to places that are at a driving distance from your home. So, drive to as many locations as you can, stay in as many family-owned Airbnb’s as you can, and buy as many locally made products as you can,” adds Mehta.
Mindful of future generations
Responsible tourism helps to promote sustainable tourism in a way by realising that one day, our children will travel to the same places, and they should, therefore, be maintained in a proper manner at this stage itself. “By teaching our children the importance of responsible tourism, we can keep making travel better for future generations,” opines Raza.