Responsible Tourism: The role of travelers and travel operators

Mr. Ajay Sharma

By Ajay Sharma, Founder and President, Abhinav Immigration Services

If we ever evaluate the changing travel industry trends, we can always point Pre and Post Pandemic eras. Covid-19 has changed the way people view the world and its environment.

Earlier, people could move freely without any restrictions, but now everything comes under scrutiny and obligations.

Perhaps, after a while, the pandemic may not be the biggest challenge to the Tourism Industry, but it is – Climate Change.

Recent climate change events such as Melting Glaciers, Amazon and Australian forest Wildfires, droughts, and depletion of water tables, are alarming situations in this modern world.

Tourism accounts for more than 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transportation contributing to 90%.

People disrupt natural resources contribute to pollution, waste, and damage, ultimately destroying the ecosystem upon which tourism depends. Thus Sustainable Tourism is the need of the hour.

Responsible tourism is a greener alternative to drive the host country’s economic, social, and cultural needs without damaging their integrity, ecology, wildlife, and cultural heritage.

It helps the country conserve its biodiversity, ecosystem, generate sustainable livelihoods, and improve human well-being.

There are three parameters that Responsible tourism is based on – Environmental Sustainability, Social Sustainability, and Economic Sustainability.

According to the studies based on these parameters mentioned above, Scandinavian, Nordic and Baltic countries have successfully implemented eco-tourism or sustainable tourism thoroughly.

Sweden serves as a role model to all developed nations in implementing climate-friendly policies, conserving biodiversity, pollution-free transportation, uplifting rural and regional tourism.

The country became the birthplace of the Flight Shame movement where it discouraged people from flying to lower carbon emissions.

Speaking of Carbon Emissions, let’s look at a country quietly contributing to preserving nature in the best possible way. Its BHUTAN.

It is the only Carbon Negative country in the world. It means that the country absorbs more Carbon Dioxide than it produces annually.

This is because around 70% of the country is covered in trees and their constitution even passed a bill that mandates to preserve 60% of the forest land.

The country thrives in eco-tourism by charging a sustainable fee from all the travelers. Maybe this is why the country focuses more on Gross National Happiness (GNP) than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure the collective happiness and well-being of the population.

What role do these tourists and tour operators play? The entire framework of Responsible Tourism rests on their shoulders.

They have the power to make or break any given opportunity to preserve our nature. These Tour operators have contributed to the development of isolated areas, long-lost art forms, and culture.

The curated experience designed by these agencies gives the complete ambiance of the culture of that country, their handicrafts, agri-farming, textiles, arts, food, and people.

More and more hidden and beautiful places are becoming accessible to tourists, which eventually creates opportunities for the small communities to represent their cultures and earn their livelihood and resources.

In the post-pandemic era, the role of travelers will be vital to recovering the global economy. Many countries have faced the wrath of Covid-19 impacts and global economic slowdown.

Once the borders are open, tourism can give these worst-hit countries the much-needed boost and economic drive.

They need to become more environmentally conscious, adopt sustainable measures, use more eco-friendly vehicles, consume less electric power, avoid plastics usage, and participate in environmental cleaning drives.

The time has come when tour operators and travelers evolve, lean towards the environmental cause, and lead the travel industry to become more sustainable.

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These developments, practices, and lifestyle changes play a significant role in saving this beautiful and thriving planet for years and years to come.