Sustainable tourism is responsible tourism

Responsible hospitality recognises the need of the hour, paving the way to a brighter, greener future

Gaurav Pokhariyal | October 4, 2022


#Tourism   #Sustainability   #Environment   #CSR  


Tourism is a huge part of global culture nowadays and is also one of the biggest sources of revenue across the world. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2019, the tourism industry contributed $8.9 trillion or 10.3% to the global GDP. The industry witnessed a massive lull in 2020 due to the pandemic, leading to a fall of 50.4%; however, demonstrating great resilience, the sector is back on the growth track. In 2021, travel and tourism increased by 21.7% in comparison to 2020; and as per reports, by 2028, the numbers will go beyond the pre-pandemic times. Tourism is one of the key contributors of growth in the country in terms of revenue as well as jobs, and India has immense potential to become the world’s most sought-after tourism destinations because of its rich heritage and culture, and diverse offerings.
 
The statistics mentioned above clearly indicate the size and importance of the tourism sector around the world, and it is increasing in significance at a faster rate than ever. Of course, there are a number of key factors that this rapid growth can be attributed to such as innovative technology, ease of travelling, decrease in travelling cost, introduction of more affordable air services and better digital technology among others. However, like two sides of a coin, there are downsides to this too, with the environment feeling the impact of the rapid rise in tourists globally. Tourism has added to the existing pressure on natural resources due to over-consumption, leading to the faster depletion of local resources as well as rising pollution levels and waste-related problems among others.
 
Today, it has become even more important to chart a new tomorrow – one that is more sustainable and inclusive, and there is no time like the present to take more concrete steps. In fact, it is the only way to create a successful travel and tourism sector for the coming ages. Responsible and sustainable tourism is the biggest need of the hour today. The rising awareness regarding global warming and other environmental concerns have encouraged both, people and companies within the tourism and hospitalitysectorto opt for more sustainable practices.

According to the Cape Town Declaration 2002, responsible tourism is a form of tourism that minimises negative social, economic and environmental impacts. It should generate greater economic benefits for local people and enhance the well-being of host communities. Secondly, it should make positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage embracing diversity. It should be culturally sensitive, encourage trust and respect between tourists and hosts. Sustainable tourism and responsible tourism might sound different and have slightly different meanings but the purpose of both is the same, and that’s why the phrase – sustainable tourism is responsible tourism – stands true. Responsible tourism is all about changing our attitude towards travel and the impact that we want to have on the environment and on society at large.
 
There are a number of countries that have taken focused steps towards sustainable tourism. For example, the Tourism Council of Bhutan has announced its commitment towards greater focus on sustainable tourism going forward. It has announced tripling current tourists’ fees to prevent over-tourism. Bhutan has previously also applied a cap on the number of tourists visiting the nation per month. Last month the Bangladesh government restricted the entry of tourists into the Sundarban mangroves during June, July and August, which is the breeding season for local wildlife, to ensure that the ecology will be completely undisturbed.

More recently, the tourism minister announced that a blueprint has been designed for the growth of the sector in India, which includes the development of six tourist circuits in the first phase. These will include the eco-circuit, wildlife circuit, Ramayana circuit, desert circuit and rural circuit. The focus of this initiative will be to preserve the beauty of these circuits while promoting tourism. Some of the other major components under these plans include building terminals for passengers; using clean energy sources for lighting streets; providing repair and refuel facilities; providing basic facilities such as water supply, sewerage, electricity and roads; upgrading communication systems like WiFi, internet, mobile services, and so on. It is also planned to further fortify the Swachh Bharat Campaign by launching an additionalcleanliness campaign to protect and preserve the sanctity of national monuments.
 
Last year, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) also revised the ESG reporting standards to develop the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting (BRSR) criteria covering hundreds of matrices, making it mandatory for the top 1,000 listed companies to file BRSR from FY 22-23.
 
The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), one of the largest global hospitality companies, is walking the talk in driving sustainable tourism. Led by the values of their founder and the Tata Group, sustainability has been a part of their DNA. Under their ESG+ framework, ‘Paathya’, IHCL has laid out defined sustainability goals for 2030 focusing a number of sustainability and community-driven initiatives such as maximising resource efficiency in each hotel, ensuring that water and energy are used judiciously and waste is reduced. To enable guests to enjoy their stay while limiting their carbon footprint, IHCL maximises the use of renewable energy, invests in water-efficient infrastructure and constantly works towards ambitious targets for the reduction in emissions.

The company’s hotels in environmentally-sensitive areas near natural parks, forests and fragile coastlines are constructed using local materials and eco-friendly design. Through projects for turtle conservation, coral reef restoration and local community-led engagement, IHCL gives guests the opportunity to participate in preserving the natural beauty of the locations they visit. In past last year, these efforts have resulted in more than 58,000 tonnes of CO¬¬2 emissions avoided and more than 3.2 million kilolitres of water reused and recycled. IHCL is also setting up charging stations for electric vehicles in its hotels to further help in reducing carbon emissions. With the aim to preserve India’s intangible cultural heritage, IHCL has partnered with UNESCO to conserve and promote key local arts and crafts across the country.
 
In today’s context, sustainable tourism is the only way towards responsible tourism. Responsible hospitality recognises the need of the hour and is seen paving the way towards a brighter, greener future; one where collective growth will be prevalent and humans will be seen in a balanced harmony with the planet. Responsible hospitality is driving the world towards a bright new future while incorporating sustainable measures and promoting responsible living.

Pokhariyal is Executive VP, HR, IHCL.

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