Adventure travel by its inbuilt character and DNA has responsible and sustainable practices embedded. When you promote the natural heritage of your country, it touches the lives of the people living in those far flung areas and the remotest corners. We have our ‘Eco Pledge’ and policies for responsible tourism in place. In a conversation with TTJ Tejbir Singh Anand, Adventure Travel Strategic Advisor, Founding Member & Board of Director at FAITH, Vice President Adventure Tour Operators Association of India, Founder & Managing Director – Holiday Moods Adventures shares an insight on the future and importance of responsible and sustainable practices in tourism
According to you, will the very nature of tourism change in the post-COVID-19 world?
It will definitely be a different world post Covid. Safety will be the prime focus now. Clients will now look for certified and licensed travel agencies. Responsible tourism has come as a blessing in disguise. Travellers will certainly show interest in responsible, conscious and transformative ways of travel. 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. The traveller and the stakeholders both need to embrace and promote transformational, conscious, and responsible tourism. Companies that talk about and can show that they are practicing offsetting of carbon footprint, waste minimisation, 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 and practice new SOP’s aligned with social distancing and safety rules will be preferred. Mass tourism will be replaced by responsible tourism. It is well said that every dark cloud has a silver lining and we should never waste a good crisis.
In the COVID era, do words like, Responsible Travel and Sustainable Practices have a new meaning for you?
My company, Holiday Moods Adventures is almost 23 years old and has been by default practicing Responsible and Sustainable tourism practices ever since. Not only these words have a meaning now but 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 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 and future have been well defined and crystal clear as below:
- Mission – Promoting sustainable tourism with exceptional ‘Handcrafted Experiences, Stories and 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 and minimising waste
- Principle – Purpose before profits
- Impact – Promote lesser trodden regions, facilitate life-changing experiences for both hosts and traveler
I wish that all stakeholders in Indiantourism 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.
What role will tourism play in the recovery of the economy? Further do you think responsible and sustainable tourism strategies can help to revive the damage caused by lockdowns and travel bans?
I personally strongly believe that Adventure Tourism is the key to revive India’s economy and make India a 12-month sustainable and responsible tourism destination. Tourism in India is a very important sector contributing to 9.2 per cent of India’s GDP, it is a no brainer that tourism is the segment which can help revive the economy like a Nike swoosh or a ‘V’ shape growth chart. 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 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 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 per cent from 2017 to 2023 in India. Sustainable and Responsible tourism strategies are not only the need of the hour but actually the way forward.
People are now seeing the importance of sustainable practices better than ever. Do you think it will bring a sense of responsibility in the minds of travellers across India after the pandemic?
Definitely! Already people are talking about ‘less is more’. I see people talking about responsibilities towards nature which were less heard of. 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 and elephants walking freely in the buffer zone roads in North East; all these are great inspirations for a traveller and mankind. I was talking to one of our corporate clients and the CFO mentioned that all business travel is being avoided helping save hotel ad flight expenses. High-end cars are not needed anymore and Innova and Dzire are good enough. These are the radical and sustainable changes that are happening everywhere. Team bonding and trips are being preferred. No more leisure trips for school students but only camps and treks to remote areas
Initiatives to promote Responsible and Sustainable travel practices
The first and foremost is that Holiday Moods Adventures has adopted industry safety guidelines and is ready for its clients, patrons, and even staff. We are geared up to educate our clients about guidelines pertaining to air travel, accommodation, and all activity related measures. There is a clear communication set for all how to live, travel and sustain responsibly. Tourism was the first to be hit and will be the last to recover. Not the largest, fittest, or leanest – but most responsible and adaptable companies will sustain. There will be demand for destinations that are least affected like the Himalayan States, North East India, Western Ghats, and all National Parks. I think people will prefer self-drive road trips. From July onwards – the lesser known regions of Spiti, Kinnaur, Ladakh and Kashmir can start hopefully. From mid-September onwards, Kumaon and Garhwal, Sikkim and North East can be taken on.
We will encourage them by:
- Attracting travellers by offering them unique native experiences that could create engaging stories for their social media content.
- Showcasing the natural heritage around you and promote the joy of new know-how.
- Make our traveller’s stay unique with immersive experiences available around you.
- Approach the travellers with our beliefs, values and principles so we get like-minded customers. Today’s traveller is well-read and knowledgeable and makes well-informed choices.
- Go Green – we will be launching initiatives to protect the environment.
- Respecting local cultures – we will nurture arts, culture, and local talents around.
- Benefit the local communities by making enterprising offers to our customers that boost their local economy.