Investment in tourism is not only an economic pursuit but a social welfare initiative too. After all, it generates employment, empowers local communities, enhances lifestyle, promotes and protects cultures and traditions, and above all, tourism can mitigate environmental impacts.
– Prateek Hira
The world is seeing a worrisome effect of climate change with extreme temperatures and changes in climatic patterns. After COVID ebbed, there have been rampant instances of over-tourism and we have witnessed a multi-fold increase in tourist footfalls, surpassing our carrying capacities at places, even in ecologically fragile areas such as the mountains, seas, rivers, lakes and forests. This is a serious time to think about a planned and conscious green investment in tourism. After all, nature to be commanded must be obeyed and so goes for tourism too. Tourism on one hand can mitigate environmental impacts but on another, it can adversely impact the environment – this is more relevant today, when tourist movement is on the rise and will only rise further, making destinations susceptible to human-induced impacts.
10 per cent of GDP comes from tourism thus making it one of the largest contributors and if we add to it aviation, automobile, entertainment, sports and food & beverage, it becomes even larger. Given this fact, it is more important that we as an industry, not only set our goals right but also the means to achieve these goals are set right. Our investments in tourism should not only be quantitative but should also be qualitative with an element of ‘green’ being of utmost importance.
The concept of ‘Responsible Tourism’ comes as a saviour, where not only the supplier is responsible and conscious towards the environment but the demand side influences the suppliers of supplying green services and products causing minimal carbon footprints due to tourism. When both the demand and supply correspond with each other, the impact from tourism will be minimal on the environment and the host society. Simply put, it’s ‘conscious tourism’ which is conscious and responsible towards the environment, society and economy.
‘Revenge Tourism’ meaning, people rush to travel after being denied the right to travel, can also reverse as ‘Tourism Revenge’ implying that tourism will doom tourism, if untamed and irresponsibly handled. The surge in tourism seen in the last year may be a sign of hope after the despair of two COVID years for the industry but at the same time, it can cause irreparable damage to our environment if not planned responsibly and this will jeopardise tourism and may nullify all its positive impacts.
About the Author: Prateek Hira is the President & CEO of Tornos, Convener of Responsible Tourism Society of India, UP Chairman of the Indian Association of Tour Operators and Chairs FICCI’s Tourism Committee.