We love to travel – claim many including your truly. No no I am not doubting their love for travel. We all seriously love to travel. But how many of us “love to travel” and “love to travel responsibly?” We the blogger or the photographers or thinkers like to say or see things a bit differently – hat ke types. Rather than going there and striking off that place from the “to visit” list; we like to really be there, feel it, be one with it ( however clichéd may that sound to my own ears) Am I sounding too cynical? Because I have seen people do things they donot do at home, when they travel. Admit it, we all have seen that, many of us must have reacted too and what followed might be a story many would not like to remember. I am strictly referring to my fellow countrymen and women travelers here.
So what is Responsible Travel? To sum up what the Capetown Conference on Responsible Tourism in 2002 describes – Responsible Tourism is that tourism which aims at “creating better places to live in and better places to visit”. It must encompass all kinds of tourism related activities to be successful for a particular destination or state that aim at Responsible Tourism.
How do we make sure that we all the indeed responsible people and we are serious about what we do and what we donot do when we travel. Pages after pages can be written on this. I admit I am no authority on Responsible Tourism. However I as a traveler would really like to contribute in my little way to “create better places to live in and better places to visit”. (I know I have repeated, but that’s what it is)
Here’s what I feel can be considered.
Tourists / Travelers must be more careful and really sensitive towards the local eco system. That habit of dropping everything on the road as you travel needs to be done away with, and done away with forever. You throw plastic packets, tetra packs, water bottles, spit on roads and walls – please for cleanliness’ sake, what sort of a habit is that ! This country is not a dustbin as we would like to treat her. Why while travelling; many have this habit of just rolling down the car window and throw out everything on to the road even in their own cities and towns. All are ok with that as long as their own house remains clean. Please learn to respect this planet, our own country and get rid of this habit. Patriotism cannot be only during cricket matches! Bikers and backpackers on tents and camps must make sure not to leave anything behind except for some wonderful memories.
Locals must be aware and strict about their place their surroundings. When tourists go to a place, the whole place changes eventually. It has lot of positive impact. A whole industry comes up. But the local people must be aware that this industry will remain as long as they respect their own place and be responsible towards it. When one sees someone doing something which may be as small as throwing a candy wrap on road, say it. Make that a habit. I have seen in some places in Leh, there were signs offering to refill water bottles at a nominal cost. That’s such a wonderful initiative. No one has to keep buying those bottles of mineral water all the time. We may not realise, but those bottles are also hazardous.
The Travel companies must draw a line. Certain places are very very sensitive and cannot handle too many tourists. After some Bollywood movies Leh has become a favourite destination for people. That has indeed generated many livelihoods for the locals there. But at what cost? Whole of Ladakh region is ecologically highly sensitive and fragile. The way the tour companies are operating “Mesmerizing Leh, Rooftop of the world” packages, the day is not far when this place will collapse. My heart broke when I saw heaps of beer bottles and empty packets of chips lying in Ranbirpura near Leh town which is now a very popular place for film and ad shoots. I pray and hope the Indus does not go the Ganges way and we need to formulate committees to clean that.
The Government must come up with strict rules for tourism. Boosting tourism in a place, must never lead to destruction of that place altogether. There must be guidelines keeping in mind the ecology and environment of the place for tourists, hoteliers, homestay owners, cabbies and even tour operators. Since travelling consist of a major part of tourism, use of transport means cannot be done away with. Those may not always be very friendly towards the environment. These complexities exist in tourism. However the right persons at the right places must ensure a middle path with minimum damage to the surroundings.
Whole of Tourism Industry must join hands together for Responsible Tourism. I am using the term “Tourism Industry” a very broad sense encompassing every element associated with it.
Travelers, Tour companies, Locals, Government all becoming one and working towards achieving the aim of creating Responsible Tourism - have I imagined too much!!
But then as John Lenon sang
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one”
A responsible one!