What do you understand by sustainable development? Simply put, it signifies an inclusive development that is achieved without creating adverse effects for the future – development without infringing human rights, without depleting our natural resources and without harming the eco-system.
With more and more people travelling for pleasure and business, the tourism sector has been growing consistently. Research by the World Travel and Tourism Council shows that the sector’s contribution to world GDP outpaced the global economy for the sixth consecutive year in 2016, rising to a total of 10.2% of world GDP (US$7.6 trillion). The sector now supports 292 million people in employment – that’s 1 in 10 jobs on the planet. Many countries, especially ones which are blessed by nature, rely majorly on tourism for their national growth and income. Due to availability of cheap technology and resources, service providers constantly are modifying their services for the pleasure and ease of tourists which further boosts the industry. Till now, it’s a fair play.
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So why am I talking about sustainability? What’s wrong if small countries or small cities of big countries are engaged heavily in tourism? The reason is the contribution of the tourism industry in overall environmental degradation.
Tourism leads to movement of people from one place to another. Increased traffic – influx of thousands of people in regions with fragile eco-systems and ill-equipped waste-management systems, leading to an alarming rise of carbon footprints. Heavy use of automobiles that run on fossil fuel, waste creation that pollutes water and harms wild and marine life are some examples of how tourism consistently contributes to this degradation.
Yet, neither regulations nor a sense of community ownership makes the service providers accountable to protect the natural resources and beauty that gets them the tourists in the first place; and all they have to do is provide food, transport, stay and assistance in lieu of money! Neither are the tourists worried the impact their travels leave on such places. While the governments and economic leaders are happy with the dough tourism brings in to their economies, its time they also start incorporating the price of un-sustainable practices in their calculations; and initiate the promotion of sustainable tourism practices. Here are four basic aspects of sustainable development that governments should incorporate in their sustainable tourism policies:
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Economic: Invest in tourism infrastructure to ensure long-term economic benefit. Tourism should generate maximum income and employment opportunities and add as much to the overall growth keeping in mind the limitation of natural resources and the pace of technological advancement.
Social: Tourism shouldn’t just be a source of employment but sustainable employment. Local communities are to be made aware and engaged in the use of technology and practices which will help them keep up their services and products in longer run. Placing rewards and recognition for those who embrace better policies should encourage others to adapt such practices, running education and behavior change communication programmes should help change mindsets.
Environment: It is the most important element of Sustainable Tourism. If present set of activities is degrading environment (pollution, climate change, loss of biodiversity, etc.) at an exponential rate then there is a need to replace this by activities which are environment friendly and are to be followed with diligence. Short term economic gains at the cost of the environment will not last long.
Major floods and landslides in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand (year 2013), one of the biggest natural disasters in the country since the Tsunami; said to have been majorly caused by unregulated constructions (of hotels and resorts on the fragile river banks), among other causes; is an example of such practices can create devastating situations.
In a state where tourism contributes one fourth of its state’s GDP, not only did it run into losses in 2013 but also saw a decline in tourism the following year. Add to that the costs incurred by the government on evacuation missions, loss of property, regeneration of infrastructure and hampered tourism.
Better policy making and governance to ensure sustainable practices in tourism industry can not only negate the financial losses, but also minimize the loss of habitats and human life. Initiatives like ecotourism, eco villages, solar plant installation, etc. are on rise and have been catering to the goal in an efficient manner. Yet there is a strong need to develop reasonable infrastructure to reduce and manage waste and carbon footprint generated by the tourism industry.
– Text by Ishani Palandurkar. Please see the detailed original post here.