Responsible Tourism for a better world

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The latest pandemic to hit the world is … the urge to travel and explore !

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard.

Travel is a great teacher, we get to explore firsthand and learn about the different lands, their climates, their rich local cultures and the exotic cuisines .

Nature in its full undisturbed glory

But every action has an equal and opposite reaction .So when we visit a place of interest, we too leave behind an impact on the place.

How many times have you come across the scenic beauty of lake or a picnic spot ruined by plastic bottles, beer cans and leftover food littered all around ?

When I recently visited Shimla and Kasauli, I was stuck by the fact that other than a cooler climate because of the high altitude, there was nothing that felt  different than our very own Delhi in terms of local food, places of stay and even the way people dressed .And I have been observing this phenomenon in almost all the places I am visiting .

As more and more people flock to tourist destinations, they end up creating demands in that place for their type of food and living .So now I see wood cabins and tin roofs being replaced by concrete walls .Also I was alarmed to see mass deforestation and construction going on very close to river beds (I wonder whether the licenses and permissions were even sought and if sought, how could they be granted?)

Deforestation and Exploitation are rampant

Again ,during my stay in Ranikhet,  I was ashamed when I saw local women trudging long distances balancing several pails of water on their heads and shoulders ,while I enjoyed the luxury of a hot shower in my hotel .It brings out the glaring disparity in the standard of living of the locals and tourists to the fore .

The local residents are leaving behind their traditional crafts and traditional jobs (read farming, craftsmanship etc.) to enter the lucrative job market generated by the tourism and hotel industry .Lucrative not always because it pays them well but because it pays faster and does not take as much as effort as their traditional jobs.

So on one hand, tourism generates employment and job opportunities and improves the lifestyle of the local people but on the other hand we have to look at the other negative effects of tourism on the local ecosystem and population.We have already winesssed  massive landslides and floods as a result of rampant deforestation and persistent meddling with nature .

The desire to earn quick buck and an increased demand for cheap labour has lured even women and minor children to work and their labour is exploited for very low wages by unscrupulous industries .
There are many tales of sexual exploitations of the locals to cater to the fancies of the visiting tourists too. In 2012, a video footage released by a leading British newspaper, showed women belonging to the Jarawa tribe from South Andaman islands being forced to dance naked for tourists. 
Deforestation ,exploitation of the natural resources and local population with dwindling art and craft and cultural heritage of the tourist destinations were so  alarming that in 2002, delegates (including tour operators, emerging entrepreneurs in the tourism industry, national parks, provincial conservation authorities, all spheres of government, tourism professionals, tourism authorities, NGOs and hotel groups and other tourism stakeholders) from 20 countries came together at The Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism and  adopted a resolution for Responsible Tourism . 
To word it simply, Responsible tourism is tourism ‘that creates better places for people to live in, and better places to visit’.
What comprises Responsible Tourism (RT)

1.RT minimises negative economic, environmental, and social impacts on the tourist destinations
    2.RT generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host                communities
    3. RT improves working conditions and creates more job avenues
    4. RT involves local people in decision making processes that affect their lives 
    5. RT contributes to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage and helps in preserving of the         bio diversity of the area  
    6. It encourages  meaningful exchanges with host communities , and a greater understanding of              local cultural, social and environmental issues 
    7. Uses natural resources sustainably and responsibly

How can we contribute as tourists ? 

  • Avoid pollution and litter – avoid/reduce/recycle the use of plastic disposable items.Fill your own bottles  carry your own mugs as much as possible                                                              
  •  My tip – consume loads of local fruits and veggies – it keeps your digestion healthy , gives you a taste of the local produce , is easier on the pocket and contributes to the local economy 
  • Each one of us  must purchase at least one craft item or produce, however small when staying in a tourist destination to boost local economy 
  • I suggest the creation of “ Culture Hubs ” in every district where the local food, craftsmanship and culture can be displayed everyday.They should be fairly priced so that the tourist and the locals both benefit and it will also help in creating a bond between them 
  • Forget your rajma –chawal and try the local foods .This enriches our knowledge and also creates less burden on the economy to outsource raw material for visiting tourists.
  • Hotels can adopt farms for their own requirements and even operate farm-tours where tourists can see and even take part in the agricultural and horticultural practices of the land 
  • Respect the local culture and people and behave as responsible adults.That means no drunken brawls, eve-teasing etc. The locals will assume this to be the general culture of the land to which you belong!
  • We all click beautiful pictures and selfies .Why not click pictures of the wrongs you witness and then send the mails to concerned departments of the government .The locals may not know the laws and enlightened tourists can create awareness among locals for better management of resources and laws of the land .
  • Take time out to interact with your guide or hotel staff to know about them and their lives.

         Do their children attend school?

        What hardships do they face?

        Sometimes one can suggest measures and ways or find sponsors and NGOs to help them in                  tackling the issues .
Friends ! Let us do our bit as responsible people to sustain and protect our rich and diverse flora and fauna so that the future generations may also cherish their beauty .

“I am blogging for #ResponsibleTourism activity by Outlook Traveller in association with BlogAdda

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