Let’s travel green: Here are some eco-friendly ideas to make tourism sustainable

By Aditi Balbir

We are living in a world wherein urban professionals are increasingly feeling the need to go on holidays and weekend getaways to unwind themselves. No wonder, a report has revealed that about 10.7 percent of the world’s GDP is being contributed by tourism alone. However, an increasing number of travellers is constantly putting pressure on the environment in several ways. While travelling is becoming more of a necessity in the global scenario, sustainable tourism has become the need of the hour.

The good news is that travellers across the world are embracing the concept of sustainable tourism more than ever. When it comes to the Indian scenario, the trend is catching up at a steady pace. A 2018 survey by a leading travel e-commerce company revealed that as much as 97 percent of Indian travellers wanted to travel sustainably, of which 88 percent were even willing to pay an extra premium to ensure the same.

This data is a call to action that travels entrepreneurs across the country need to answer with haste. Considering the increasing need among travellers to explore new destinations, most of the hotel and resort groups should start responding to this trend by having a presence in those offbeat destinations and offer end-to-end experiences to travellers. This will not just revolutionise the way Indians travel, but also create job opportunities for the local folk living in places that are far from the main towns and cities.

Local hiring is one of the basic steps that travel entrepreneurs should take towards making their businesses aligned with the etiquettes of sustainable tourism. Providing a means of livelihood to the local folk not just aids them in the overall development of their lives, but also ensures that the preservation of the local cultures and tradition are in continuity, which happens to be one of the major goals of sustainable tourism.

The involvement of the local community in tourism holds more importance than we realise. Travelling has become more about experiencing the local life of a destination than just simply touching upon the officially created sightseeing spots for tourists. Naturally, interaction with the locals is an experience that travellers look forward to these days. Guided village tours, local meals and folk performances at the resort are just some of the ways in which the travel industry can actually ensure a simultaneous development of tourism and the local community — thus ensuring a symbiotic step towards sustainable tourism.

One of the key ethics of sustainable tourism is the preservation of local culture and tradition. Entrepreneurs need to realise that it’s not just the creation of job opportunities that ensure the preservation of these things, they need to go out of their way to look for local talent and provide them a platform for the world to discover them. There are skilled artisans, folk musicians and other performing artists who should be provided a platform to showcase their skills to travellers. This can be done in the form of events like puppet-making workshops, folk music nights, theatre shows and dance performances among other things. These events can make an all-around impact on sustainable tourism — the local talent gets an audience, travellers get to experience the local culture, and the local community finds yet another way to add on to their earnings.

While tourism ought to be initiated at any location with the help of the local community, it is also important for entrepreneurs to focus more on eco-tourism. Simple modifications can make a huge difference to the environment and act as a big step towards sustainability — replacing normal electricity with solar power, and replacing the usual water supply with rainwater harvesting are just a few examples. When it comes to accommodation for travellers, brick-and-mortar construction can be replaced with mud and wood, for instance. Such living spaces are not just eco-friendly, but also make for an experience so unique that a traveller won’t even mind spending a little extra for that.

Sustainable tourism can be complete only when travel entrepreneurs ensure that adequate steps have been taken to complete the cycle of taking from and giving back to the environment. Whenever tourism is initiated in any place, there are several things that are taken from the environment in the form of basic supplies and more. The tourism industry should focus more on giving the same amount of things back to the environment and then leave scope for the carbon footprints to increase. A large number of environment-friendly practices, including the use of natural resources for construction, rainwater harvesting, installation of solar power, plantation of trees and organic farming should be adopted by the entrepreneurs to make tourism sustainable. Putting it in perspective, the primary goal of any travel entrepreneur must be to take adequate steps towards making the world a better place to live in, and things shall automatically align themselves in favour of sustainable tourism.

Aditi Balbir is the founder and chief executive officer of V Resorts. This article was originally published on CNBCTV18

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