By Jocelyn Carvelho
Sustainability in the tourism and hospitality sector has been a growing urgency. With several hoteliers focused on combining sustainable efforts, such as preserving land and natural habitats, with luxury accommodations, there has been a new wave of tourism that benefits the local communities, the people, and the planet. Another reason behind growing ecotourism gaining impetus includes a strong pent-up demand for travel due to the Covid pandemic which has led to permanently altered consumer preferences.
In the past few months, there has been a clear trend of tourists opting for beautiful locations with dispersed accommodation including homestays or resorts at destinations drivable from cities. Interestingly, according to a report released by RedCore – RedSeer’s arm the travel market in India is projected to reach $125 billion by FY27 from an estimated $75 billion in FY20.
Growing demand for luxury ecotourism throws light on the changing paradigm of luxury, especially in the travel and hospitality space. Luxury eco-tourism offers new ways of creating tourism value that goes beyond leveraging the historical importance, built heritage, and natural beauty of the destination. It offers travellers superior comfort in travel mode, privacy and an increase in health and wellness.
India, blessed with abundant natural diversity, makes for a great eco-tourist destination in the world. From the dramatic deserts of Rajasthan to the lush green forest of Cherrapunji, from the mighty Himalayas to the majestic deep blue beaches of the South, India throughout the decade has established itself as the top favourite ecotourism destination. There is also a great potential to develop ecotourism in India that ensures socio-economic development of local communities while also conserving its biodiversity.
Due to this, ecotourism has gained widespread acceptance in the tourism industry all over the country with mountain tourism being identified as one of the fastest-growing sectors in the recent past.
Some states, like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Goa have recognised eco-tourism as a high potential opportunity for the economic development of the region and have initiated different ecotourism activities for livelihood creation as well as conservation and protection of the fragile ecosystem.
The foundation of eco-tourism, which is value creation, engages tourists in – nature discovery walks/treks; local farming activities; adventure sports; local cuisines; crafts, folklore and arts; volunteering for community development; mental and spiritual rejuvenation among other things. All of these can potentially enhance duration of stay and tourism spend, while lowering environmental footprint.
However, limited scientific and management focus to develop ecotourism as a viable approach is one of the reasons limiting the success of ecotourism in India. Additional scientific research that can assist in forming suitable legislative policies, increased consumer awareness, and financial investments can help make luxury eco-tourism grow exponentially in India.
Several tourist spots in India including hill stations, pilgrimage sites and wildlife sanctuaries in particular—have exceeded, or are on the verge of exceeding their carrying capacity. At the core of the problem lies the resources consumed and generated by tourists weren’t sustainably managed.
Economic development is often achieved at the cost of the environment with human encroachment and rampant pollution posing primary challenges to sustainable and holistic growth. However, there is an opportunity to reimagine the face of luxury eco-tourism in India in a manner that is future-ready and sustainable. The urgent need for today is to utilise our natural resources sustainably with a focus on minimising their depletion and pollution.
Since tourists are important for the economy as in the case of several states, they form an important source of revenue as this can then be reinvested into developmental requirements. While growing tourism brings prosperity to the town, appropriate planning and a 360-degree vision are at the core of the overall discussion on the sustainability of economic growth.
Sustainable ventures with agile frameworks that prioritise people and planet along with profit will rise to be among the resilient, successful and defining agents of this new market.
(The author is from GM Hotels & Hospitality, Delta Corp. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)
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