The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, work, eat as well as travel. At the time when the pandemic was at its peak globally, the travel industry suffered a major blow as people practically stopped travelling for months to follow quarantine, isolation and social distancing. Now as the travel restrictions are being lifted, the movement has started, however, things are not and will perhaps never be the same again.
COVID-19 is not the first pandemic that we have suffered and neither will it be the last. The devastating effect that it has had on the global economy has made the people as well as the businesses more conscious about safety and hygiene. At such a time, the travel industry which was already taking baby-steps towards sustainability has an opportunity to take a plunge towards it. Sustainable travel is no more one of the option. It is the only option.
Sustainability in travel is not just about environment conservation or reduced carbon footprint. It has a much broader connotation which includes the social, cultural, economic, and physical aspects of a destination. This makes it imperative for all the stakeholders to work together to imbibe sustainability in the travel and tourism industry.
Travel and tourism have an immense multiplier effect on the economy. Last year, it contributed 9.3 per cent to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and received 5.9 per cent of total investments. In order to ensure that the travel and tourism industry continues to thrive in the global economy, the governments, as well as the companies, will need to make major structural changes in the way they manage tourists and the infrastructure to facilitate tourism.
How can India promote Sustainable Travel
The type of tourism in India mainly depends upon the economic value of the travel. It is either luxury travel or budget travel. Sustainable travel is adopted by a very small population in the country. While this form of classification is helpful in India where travel is considered to be a luxury by the majority of the population, it takes away the sustainability aspect from it. Such travellers start to put a monetary value to every experience they have on the road disregarding the ecological and social capacity of the destination.
This phenomenon is observed in the Ladakh region in India where despite extreme water scarcity, the luxury travellers demand running showers without understanding the local needs. Or in Andaman and Nicobar Islands where travellers give biscuits and other packaged foods to the indigenous tribal people without considering the repercussions that might have on their health.
Therefore, it is important to place sustainable travel at the top, and define economic classification under the ambit of sustainable travel. Only when every player in the travel ecosystem shows awareness and commitment towards sustainable tourism, does the idea of sustainable tourism become mainstream and not limited to certain pockets of travellers.