Over the past several years, the tourism industry has reshaped and redefined itself, with sustainable tourism playing an increasingly important role in promoting its growth and development. The preferences of modern-day travellers are continuously evolving and sustainable tourism has given the perfect opportunity to select a new direction and move towards a new path. It has offered a way to design and consolidate the transition towards a greener and more balanced tourism.
UNWTO defines sustainable tourism as, "Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities". It, therefore plays a pivotal role in conserving biodiversity and is integral to all aspects of tourism development and management rather than being an add-on component.
The 2030 agenda for sustainable development also sheds light on the importance of sustainable tourism to tackle water pollution, land degradation, and desertification to promote resilience and disaster risk reduction. By 2030, the focus will be to devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products. To successfully achieve these targets, a well-structured implementation framework, adequate financing and investment in technology, infrastructure and human resources are critical.
The objective of sustainable tourism
Sustainable tourism aims to preserve the economic and social advantages of tourism development while minimizing or mitigating any adverse effects on the natural, historic, cultural, or social environment. This can be achieved in the following ways-
Why is sustainable tourism important?
Sustainable tourism is quite critical, especially in modern times because it can help fight many global challenges facing the industry today.
It ensures the economic viability
Sustainable tourism is crucial to ensure that tourism destinations and businesses are viable, competitive and able to achieve long-term success thereby ensuring economic viability. It can also help and support the local communities to thrive economically and retain a substantial amount of economic contribution thereby ensuring local and domestic prosperity. Sustainable tourism, as a means, can help generate employment opportunities for the locals and ensure that the income and working conditions are optimal thereby providing employment equality.
It preserves the local culture and heritage
Sustainable tourism is crucial and beneficial in ensuring that tourism increases the amount of economic and social benefits being distributed across local communities and in a way ensures social equity. It helps in maintaining the cultural richness, authenticity, uniqueness and traditional connection of the host communities. Sustainable tourism also empowers the local communities to play a pivotal role in planning, managing and decision-making regarding tourism practices.
It maintains the biological diversity
Sustainable tourism also covers looking after and maintaining the landscapes whether urban or rural and ensures that they are not degraded or harmed as a result of tourism. Biological diversity is also a part of sustainable tourism as it focuses on conserving natural surroundings, wildlife and habitats and protecting them. Another important aspect of sustainable tourism is resource efficiency which means one should use sustainable and renewable resources whenever possible in the development and operation of tourism facilities.
Sustainable tourism and India
COVID-19 Pandemic further highlighted the role and importance of sustainable tourism. It has triggered the pace of adoption of sustainable tourism causing tourists to behave more responsibly. Tourists are now talking about responsibilities towards nature which were less heard of earlier. Many travellers are shifting from conscious luxury travel to sustainable travel to promote responsible tourism. Travelling in a manner that brings a positive impact and also protects and preserves our cultural assets is becoming more crucial. Many travel brands across the country are becoming environmentally conscious and are offering authentic experiences to tourists and guests. Maximizing social and economic benefits for the local communities and conserving biodiversity is a salient feature of sustainable tourism in India.
Sustainable tourism as a practice is incredibly beneficial for the environment and the tourism industry. Small steps like contributing to the local economy, staying in eco-friendly places, keeping the surroundings clean and investing in sustainable practices can go a long way towards delivering something that benefits the tourists, local people, and the environment simultaneously.