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National & state tourism policies should recognize sustainability practices in the vision and strategic direction for tourism: Tourism Secretary, Govt of India

Jul 07, 2021

NEW DELHI, 07 JULY 2021: Mr Arvind Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India today said that many tourism destinations have been embracing sustainability and taking action to address the environmental impacts, but this practice should be more universal. Similarly, businesses in tourism, large and small, have introduced environmental management systems to keep up with the demands of the sector, he added. 

Addressing the webinar on 'Sustainable Tourism: Confidence to Explore India Responsibly', at FAE 2020, an initiative led by Ministry of Tourism, Government of India in partnership with FICCI, Mr Singh said that the tourism sector is a significant user of non-renewable resources and a generator of waste and pollution. Therefore, national and state tourism policies should recognise sustainability practises and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the vision and strategic direction for tourism. This may require a rethinking of the indicator of tourism success, away from volumes and towards more holistic concepts of value and impact at the destination level, he noted. 

Mr Singh informed that the Government has come out with a Draft National Strategy and Roadmap for Sustainable Tourism. "Comments and suggestions from all stakeholders, associations, and state are welcomed. Some of the measures that we have proposed in the strategy is the certification scheme for sustainable tourism. This can later be extended to destinations and other industry stakeholders as well. We will also work with industry, NGOs for the dissemination of information, education and communication campaigns on sustainable tourism and the adverse environmental impacts of tourism in certain parts of the country," he said.

"There will also be an effort to do a state assessment and ranking. This will be a clear strategy to motivate states adopt sustainable tourism. This assessment will be used to identify initiatives in the states and build a capacity and future roadmap towards better sustainable practises in tourism. We will aggressively promote sustainable tourism certified products and enterprises, he further noted.

Mr Singh spoke on encouraging states and industry to follow sustainable principles in developing destinations and products. "No such strategy can succeed without public-private and community partnerships, especially where sustainability is concerned, the private sector and the community have a very important role to play," he said.

Mr Rakesh Kumar Verma, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India stated that the future is sustainable tourism. "Unless we accept and have a shared vision that it is our future, our efforts will not really commensurate. Even before the pandemic, the need for sustainable tourism was out in the open, and now, particularly with this agenda of SDG 2030 for sustainable tourism in our strategy, we have marked out that not only three, but sustainable tourism can contribute to all 17 on SDGs. It aligns with multiple fronts and so we must be convinced that this is a goal worth pursuing," he said.

Mr Verma also spoke about the need for the industry to be enthused by the concept of sustainable tourism. "We need to make it a win-win proposition for the government, the industry, and the people at large. We must look at making sure all stakeholders are equally the responsible for the campaign - unless people start demanding and valuing sustainable tourism, the supply side - the government, and the industry, will still have a laid-back, complacent attitude," he added. 

Mr Vishal Kumar Dev, Principal Secretary, Tourism Department, Sports & Youth Services Department, Government of Odisha spoke about the challenges of enforcement of sustainability and the various initiatives taken by the state government in tackling this. "We have adopted an integrated approach as far as the development of our destinations is concerned. A large number of day picnickers, for example, is a big challenge because they litter the place. The best way to deal with this would primarily be to make the local community responsible for ensuring that the standards defined are enforced," he noted.

In the last one- one and half years due to the pandemic there has been a very strong realisation that sustainability and responsible tourism is the way forward. It is not just the industry, even the travellers are aware and sensitive of the footprint that they are leaving. Sustainable tourism will, therefore, also act as a competitive advantage, whether it is a country or a state or a hospitality group, Mr Dev further added.

Mr Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary Tourism, Culture and Public Relation Dept and MD, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Board, Government of Madhya Pradesh said that things are being looked at differently in the post-pandemic world. "There is, however, a definite shift when it comes to the choices of eco-conscious travellers - from luxury to authentic. While the tourism department must work continuously to ensure adequate footfall in the state, it is also now time that we take certain measures that ensure minimum carbon footprints in the state.

Further, Mr Shukla said that Madhya Pradesh boasts of many hidden jewels and is a treasure trove for people who love nature and remote land experiences- it is much more exploratory in nature. "We have, therefore, taken a firm step in making responsible tourism the main plank of our tourism policy. We have tried to devise various tourism products around the concept of responsible tourism that leads to community- centric, inclusive, regenerative, and sustainable tourism," he said.

Dr K Jayakumar, Additional Chief Secretary, Tourism & Civil Aviation, Government of Sikkim informed that off late rural tourism has picked up well in the state. The state government has also stepped in and is standardising the services that are made available at the homestays. "Along with homestays we have also introduced the concept of farm stays. We have several rural clusters and rural tourist facilitation centres that help tourists in getting information," he added.

Speaking about imbibing sustainability in all future projects and endeavours taken up by the state government, Mr Mukesh Kumar Meshram, Principal Secretary, Tourism & Culture and DG, Tourism, Uttar Pradesh Government, said, "In the vision document of Ayodhya, we have specifically asked for basic elements and principles of traditional and Vedic architectures and design keeping in mind the climatology of the particular area."

Dr Jyotsna Suri, Past President, FICCI; Chair, FICCI Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Committee & CMD, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group said that the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry has been hit very hard by the pandemic. "On behalf of FICCI and the industry, I would like to thank the Ministry of Tourism for the recent announcement on free tourist visas for up to 5 lakh tourists. This will give a major push to the revival of inbound tourism, which we are all looking forward to," she said.

Speaking on inspiring confidence to travel among people, Ms Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said that not everyone travels out of country for more than once or twice a year, hence, the opportunity to tap into aspirational Indians who are looking to travel for long weekends is huge. "The lesser-known products are not just being developed for the domestic market but also for the inbound travellers who are looking for more experiential learnings, experiences of India in its most colourful form, cuisine, arts, crafts, heritage, among others," she said.

Mr Mandip Singh Soin, FRGS, Member- FICCI Inbound Committee; Founder and Managing Director, Ibex Expeditions and Founding President, Responsible Tourism Society of India moderated the inaugural session while the following session was moderated by Mr Dipak Deva, Co-Chair, FICCI Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Committee; Chair, FICCI Inbound Committee and Managing Director, SITA, TCI & Distant Frontiers. Ms Kerrie Hannaford, Vice President- Commercial, South Asia, Accor; Mr Rohit Kapoor, Chief Executive Officer, OYO INSEA (India & South-East Asia); Mr Kamal Hingorani, Chief Customer Service Officer, SpiceJet Ltd, Mr Rakshit Desai, Chairman, FICCI Corporate & MICE Tourism Committee & Managing Director, FCM Travel Solutions; and Mr Ranjit Phillipose, Area Director - Middle East and General Manager, Taj Dubai, The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) also put forth their views.

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