A large majority of tourists are mesmerised by water. They travel across the world to be near water, surf on high waves, loll on beaches, ride on boats. Then there is the little matter of running water in hotels and restaurants where they stay. So without water, tourism loses much of its living reason.

It is fitting, especially for a destination such as Kerala, that World Tourism Day, being observed on Friday, has as its theme “Tourism and water — protecting our common future.”

The theme underscores the responsibility of the burgeoning tourism industry to safeguard and manage water intelligently.

As official celebrations of the day take place in neighbouring Maldives, the spotlight is on water, both as asset and resource, and the actions needed to face up to the water challenge.

Be it Kerala, one of the must-see destinations, or any other tourist destination, water powers all tourism industries from hotels to restaurants, leisure activities and transport.

Low-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads and leak detection instruments are an integral part of tourism structures in foreign countries. But the State tourism industry has been slow in adopting the advancements.

“Water is the backbone of Kerala Tourism. Visible care for water is not seen despite the State marking its presence on the tourism map. The sector and industry is not coming forward on expected lines,” C. Jayakumar, environmentalist and member, State Tourism Advisory Committee, says.

Mr. Jayakumar says the sector and the industry should not adopt a negative approach to protecting the commons. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his message, has urged tourism establishments to cut down on consumption and improve waste management. Individuals should play their part by making environmentally conscious choices while travelling.

S. Faizi, ecologist and member, Expert Group on Biodiversity and Development of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, says it is in the benign self-interest of the industry to play a serious role in the protection of waterbodies since a large segment of the industry is dependent on these waterscapes.

The industry must exert peer pressure on entrepreneurs who flout the laws to construct hotels and resorts on waterfronts and beaches, he says. The sector should wake up to ways to reduce the wastage of water in the name of creating luxury in facilities from hotel bathrooms to golf courses, drawing inspiration from this year’s theme, he says.

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