The definition of ‘tourism’ has evolved over the past years and will continue to do so considering the fluidity of global economy and the rising environmental threats. According to World Economic Forum 2022, extreme weather, livelihood crises and climate action failure are the three top global risks that affect all industries and sectors including tourism. Though badly hit by the pandemic, it has scope to grow now that economies have reopened. On the one hand, countries are making efforts to rebuild tourism so that it becomes more sustainable and resilient; on the other, tourist are becoming more conscious of their travel practices.
While travelling is an enriching experience and youth need to travel to learn about life and witness the diversity around the world, they also need to be sensitised to their responsibilities when travelling. This will then ensure that their actions have a minimal negative impact on the environment. One does not need to be a superhero to save our planet, we all have the capability to do so. And it is the youth that is capable of determining the Earth’s future through its thoughts and actions.
Responsible tourism is the new buzzword in the travel industry. While attending the inaugural session of the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit in Ladakh recently, Bhupender Yadav, the Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said that responsible tourism is the need of the hour and that the involvement of local communities is most important for this. India will soon release its Tourism Policy which will have responsible tourism as one of the key principles.
There are several ways to strengthen one’s knowledge and understanding of sustainable and responsible tourism. One way is to enrol for formal courses that sensitise on issues concerning the tourism industry and on sustainable and eco-tourism. Apart from this, there are other steps to internalise responsible tourism.
- Minimum footprint: Start calculating your carbon footprint. Are you going by road, train or flight? Be aware of the practices at your place of stay such as waste disposal mechanisms, energy efficient practices, zero-waste kitchen processes and more. Use this to determine to your choice of travel and accommodation.
- Go local: Local communities are the backbone of responsible tourism. Promoting local food is not only enriching experience for the traveller but also provides livelihood options to the people. Encourage home stays and engage local guides. Also, while promoting local food, ensure that you avoid wastage.
- Avoid littering: Carry your own water bottles and reduce consumption of single-use plastic bottles. Do not throw away garbage on roads, near water bodies or any public places. If you find someone doing this, educate them on the harmful impact of their actions.
- Buying of souvenirs: Be aware of products being sold at tourist market. Do not buy any product made from an endangered plant or animal. There will be no tourist spots left if they are devoid of their flora and fauna.
These are simple practices but go a long way in protecting the environment. Youngsters are the most powerful ambassadors of Planet Earth. It is time they become the torchbearers for responsible tourism and redefine the industry with their actions.
The writer is Senior Programme Officer, Centre for Environmental Law, WWF India
A monthly column from WWF-India