Responsible & Sustainable Tourism post COVID-19 through the eyes of adventure travel

Senior travel professional, Tejbir Singh Anand dons many a hat in the tourism industry, as VP, ATOAI; Founder & MD, Holiday Moods Adventures; Founding Member, FAITH and as an adventure travel strategic advisor. In this article authored by him, he talks about responsible and sustainable tourism in the ‘new’ world and where adventure travel stands.

 

A DIFFERENT WORLD OF RESPONSIBLE TOURISM

It is well said that every dark cloud has a silver lining and we should never waste a good crisis. Responsible tourism has come as a blessing in disguise as travellers will certainly show interest in responsible, conscious and transformative ways of travel. The very nature of tourism will undergo a change in the post-COVID-19 world. It will definitely be a different world post-Covid with safety being the prime focus. Travellers will look for certified and licensed travel agents/ operators. The Traveller and the stakeholders, both need to embrace and promote transformational, conscious and responsible tourism. Companies which talk about and can show that they are practising offsetting of carbon footprint, waste minimization, increasing their conservation and efficiency efforts, promoting local recruitment hence empowering regional economies involving communities and benefiting them will become popular and sought after. Companies who talk about & practice new SOP’s aligned with social distancing & safety rules will be preferred. Mass tourism will be replaced by responsible tourism. All tourism stakeholders need to understand that to meet such a demand, they need to start preparing as of yesterday with suitable guidelines and protocols. 

SUSTAINABLE PRACTISES – LEARNINGS FROM ADVENTURE TRAVEL?

When you patronize Adventure Travel promoting the Natural Heritage of your country, it touches the lives of the people living in those far-flung areas and the remotest corners. Adventure Travel by its inbuilt character and DNA has responsible and sustainable tourism embedded. My company Holiday Moods Adventures Pvt Ltd is 23 years old and has been by default practising Responsible and Sustainable tourism practises ever since. We were made to understand the importance of these words right from the word “GO”. We have our “Eco Pledge” and Policies for Responsible tourism in place ever since. All our tours follow a strict eco-code that involves everyone, starting from the office, to our clients, the adventure staff on the field and the local community. We conduct responsible and sustainable tourism with minimal impact on the physical, cultural and social environment of the area. As a company, our ideas for current & future have been well defined and crystal clear as below:

  • Mission  – Promoting sustainable tourism with exceptional “Handcrafted Experiences, Stories &  Adventures Across The Globe” 
  • Vision – To be India’s Premier B2B Global Adventure Travel Company
  • Values – Protecting the environment, Respecting local cultures. Benefiting local communities, Conserving resources & Minimizing waste
  • Principle – Purpose before Profits 
  • Impact – Promote lesser trodden regions, facilitate life-changing experiences for both hosts & traveller

I wish that all stakeholders in the Indian tourism imbibe similar ethos and understand that anything which is not sustainable, will not live for very long and initiatives that lack responsibility will not grow at all. 

IMPORTANCE OF SUSTAINABLE & RESPONSIBLE PRACTICES IN TRAVELLERS 

Revived nature is an attraction now- Clean potable water of River Ganga in Haridwar, bright blue sky and stars at night, view of Dhauladhar Himalayas from Jalandhar, Uttarakhand Himalayas from Saharanpur and Nepal Himalayas from Bihar, Rhinos & Elephants walking freely in the buffer zone roads in North East; all these are great inspirations for a traveller and mankind. Corporate clients are avoiding high-end cars as they feel they are not needed anymore. Innova & Dzire are substituting Merc’s and Beamers Business travel is being avoided and virtual meetings and work from home is being promoted helping save hotel & flight expenses. These are the radical and sustainable changes that are happening everywhere. Team bonding and trips are being preferred. Schools are now clear that only camps & treks to remote areas will be promoted. Already people are talking about “less is more”. I am finding people talking about responsibilities towards nature which were less heard of. 

PLANS AND INITIATIVES TO PROMOTE RESPONSIBLE AND SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL  

Now is the time to adopt industry safety guidelines and be ready and empowered for your client’s arrivals. Your clients will need to be educated about guidelines pertaining to air travel, accommodation and all activity related measures. There must be a clear line of communication set for all how to live, travel and sustain responsibly. There will be demand for destinations which are least affected like the Himalayan States, North East India, Western Ghats and all National Parks. I think people will prefer self-driving road trips. From July mid onwards – the lesser-known regions of Spiti, Kinnaur, Ladakh and Kashmir can start hopefully. From mid-September onwards, Kumaon & Garhwal, Sikkim & North East can be taken on. 

INSPIRATIONS FROM ADVENTURE TRAVEL?

It’s time to encourage the travellers and the tourism industry stakeholders by:-

    • Attracting travellers by offering them unique native experiences that could create engaging stories for their social media content.  
    • Showcasing the natural heritage around and promoting the joy of newfound.
    • Making traveller’s stay unique with immersive experiences
    • Approaching the travellers with our beliefs, values and principles so as to attract minded customers. Today’s traveller is well-read and knowledgeable and makes well-informed choices. 
  • Go Green – Launch initiatives to protect the environment.
  • Respecting local cultures – nurture arts, culture and local talents around
  • Benefitting the local communities by making enterprising offers to customers that boost the local economy.

REVIVAL OF TOURISM AND RECOVERY OF THE ECONOMY THROUGH RESPONSIBLE AND SUSTAINABLE TOURISM STRATEGIES?

If we are talking about the recovery of the farthest-flung regions of this country, then this is the only segment of the industry which will act as a stepping ladder for reviving the economy. India is ranked 34th on the world travel and tourism index driven by the rich natural and cultural resources. The World Economic Forum ranked India as the 5th best destination on the Natural Heritage Index in the world. one thing is for sure – “That the future is not in sedentary travel”. Adventure promotes socio-economic benefits in the remotest parts of the country helping poverty alleviation. At present, only 15 states and 3 Union Territories have declared tourism as an industry and I really wish that tourism is given an industry status at the centre touching lives in the farthest-flung regions of the country. To give you an idea, there have been studies conducted in the past by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India which have resulted in some pretty interesting findings related to adventure travel. Based on the data collected during the study, the adventure tourism and activity travel market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 17.4% from 2017 to 2023 in India. Sustainable & Responsible tourism strategies are not only the need of the hour but actually the way forward. Adventure Tourism is the key to revive India’s economy and make India a 12 months sustainable & responsible tourism destination. Tourism in India is a very important sector contributing to  9.2% of India’s GDP and tourism is the segment which can help revive the economy like a Nike swoosh or a “V” shape growth chart. 

~ Tourism was the first to be hit and will be the last to recover.  Not the largest, fittest or leanest – BUT the most responsible and adaptable companies will sustain ~

 

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