While the talk of sustainability has been going on since long, COVID has put a spotlight on this aspect. Experts share how and why tourism should be a flagbearer of sustainability and how hotels, airlines and travel companies are making sure that being responsible is the way forward.
Atul Bagai, Head India Country Office United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
There is a need for all stakeholders to come together. When MOT comes up with the national strategy and roadmap for sustainbale tourism, it should bring together multitude of departments and ministries that impinge upon the tourism sector. It should also bring in other stakeholders and most importantly the tourism industry needs to play such a prominent role. I am heartened to see the kind of initiative that the industry is taking to bring the environment and tourism close.
Kamal Hingorani, Chief Customer Service Officer, SpiceJet
Ajay Singh, CMD, SpiceJet, made a statement at the side-lines of the UN General Assembly in November 2018, during the climate summit, where he pledged that we should try and achieve 100 million passengers in domestic skies in India to be flying on sustainable fuel. We used the World Economic Forum platform to come with a blueprint of how we will achieve that in 2030. Using COVID as an opportunity to work on the same, we spent 11 months to develop a 70-page document.
Ajay Bakaya, MD, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts
We converted our hotels into hospitals, with facilities essentially taking care of COVID patients, and we had doctors, nurses, attendants. The hotel lobby was converted into a hospital reception and we had two ambulance parked outside. In an environment where the traditional hotel business is difficult to come by for the next year or two or more, it’s the middle way that works very well—a hybrid model, in the next few weeks months and years, wherein hotels throw access to medical care.
Dipak Deva, Managing Director, Sita India, TCI Distant Frontiers and TCI Go Vacations
If we don’t have champions around, if we don’t have a certification programme, if we are not seen as a destination that is going to take us to the next level in sustainability, we would have lost a great opportunity after COVID because every destination is going to start from the same starting point. Is India the one who is going to take the lead? Is our Government the one who is going to make sustainability the most important pillar of their strategic initiative going forward? If yes, we have a very good chance.
Dr Latika Nath, Chairman & Founder, Hidden India Safari & Lifestyle Experiences
First, we need to understand the difference between tourism and sustainability. To be sustainable in the long term, we need to be responsible today. We need to understand how important scientific country planning is and hence we need architects and planners on board. We need to understand the impact of high number of people congregating at places and what it’s doing to our resources like water, land, and forest area.
Inputs by Nisha Verma