Dec 8, 2015

Responsible Tourism is about Respect!

“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” —John James Audubon
Ria and Jia, the 9-year old twins rushed around the coffee table in the living room. The excitement was clearly evident in their bright sparkly eyes. Summer vacations were almost nearing and they had big plans to enjoy, enjoy and enjoy. Today, their dad was to tell them options where they can go for their annual vacation. It was sort of a family tradition for the Mehtas to relax and have fun at a historical heritage site, safari park or nature getaways. Everyone looked forward to it.

Finally the moment! Dad brought brochures from a travel agent and few travel magazines showcasing beauty and bliss. From the majestic palaces in Rajasthan to beautiful beaches in Kerala, from the snowy treat in Himachal to the temples in Gujarat, from the museums in Delhi to the sweet delights in Calcutta...the girls started weaving colorful, happy thoughts from which they would make a warm blanket of memories until the next year summer vacations. The family talked about what each one of wanted from the vacation. Mrs. Mehta wanted to visit temples and reflect on the divine ideals and beliefs they stood for. Mr. Mehta wanted a relaxing trip with the family. He wanted to be at a place abundant with natural scenery away from the hullaballoo of everyday chores. The little twins wished for melody of waterfalls, a camp made cosy with their sleeping bags and a lantern, sights of wild animals, scent of fauna. Yes, they dreamt of adventure. They all had different places they wanted to go but before they could decide, today, Mr. Mehta had an important thing to discuss, especially with the girls. He wanted these holidays to be extra special. Not only he wanted relaxation and fun but education to go hand in hand.

Carefully he picked a packet of flash cards from his office bag. Ria and Jia were curious, what they were and what the print with pictures in them stood for. Mr. Mehta then told the girls, it’s time for all of them to be Responsible Tourists. Mrs. Mehta nodded and smiled, thinking that this was going to be the learning for life.

1) Flora and Fauna:
Who doesn't like the peace of nature, the music of sea waves, the purity of sea-surf, the echoes in mountains, the buzzing of bees in lush green forests. Most of us have enjoyed or at least wished for watching orange Sunset with seagulls calling, wandering relaxedly amidst tall green trees and wild animals . What if the dream never comes true because we didn't care enough for it?

2) Disposables & Trash:
Travel inevitably generates piles of trash. Ranging from various paper brochures to packets of chips we enjoy en route our journey to disposables we use. The foremost job as a responsible tourist is to reduce our usage of such products and then when their purpose is served, dispose it rightfully. Even trash has it's rightful place. Yes, a trash can/dust-bin. If you don't find any at a particular moment, make your own. Assign a bag as a trash-bag and collect all travel-generated trash in it. Dispose one when you can. Be Responsible for your own waste.

3) Yes to Memories, No to Carbon-footprint:
Travel with loved ones or in beloved nature or majestic buildings is a sure way to please the eyes and mind. Vacations add to the album of life the beautiful memories to linger on in the monotony of life. Make memories not your carbon-footprint. Carbon footprint indicates the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activities during a certain period of time. It is expressed in tonnes of Carbon produced.

Here's how you can reduce the production of carbon footprint during (and also in general) your vacation-

1)Track mileage and efficiency of your vehicles -rented or personal. Avoid modes of transport that emit lots of smoke and gases like nitrogen oxide, carbon-dioxide in huge amounts.
2)If possible, go for hybrid vehicles. Do your bit. It makes a difference.

4) Energy- Preserve and Conserve- You will be lifeless without it:
Imagine no electricity to charge your smartphones! Phew! How many of us do not panic when the battery is dying and we are away from chargers or power sources! No television or no light bulb, no laptops no flame to make breads on. Yes, life would be lifeless without energy. 

  • So you are in a hotel, why bother to shut the lights/fan/air conditioning! No, be responsible and keep lights and air-conditioning to your room off when not needed or while going out.
  • Do you imagine how many gallons of water is needed to wash towels/napkins? How much energy is spent in the process! Just because the hotels give you new towel service every day, do not give them to laundry. Reuse them just as you do at your home. Think before you drop them for laundry.

5) Relish & Cherish the 'Local':
Local art, handicrafts, textured woven fabrics, story-based music, rituals etc, they all have a earthen touch and fragrance to them. A lot of places local artisans are facing problems to keep up their only source of livelihood. As a responsible tourist, we should encourage their art. An important thing to follow is not to bargain unnecessarily. We would be ready to spend hundreds of rupees in fancy restaurants but to buy from these artisans, we bargain.  Avoid it and ask others to avoid it too.

Responsible Tourism is about sustainability and ecological conservation. We need to be accountable. We need to be responsible for our actions and for acts of our fellow men and women. Don't just preach. Act and set examples for others. Our children will learn more from seeing us follow certain rules and ethics than watching and listening us teach them. Footprint Network measures Footprint and Biocapacity in global hectares. The figures for India are shocking. Look for yourself-

Ecological assets are at the core of every nation's long-term wealth. Yet today, population growth and consumption patterns are putting more pressure on our planet's ecosystems, as seen in water shortages, reduced cropland productivity, deforestation, biodiversity loss, fisheries collapse and climate change. Ecological Footprint accounting compares how much demand human consumption places on the biosphere (Ecological Footprint) to the area, or supply, of productive land available to meet this demand (biocapacity). Both Footprint and biocapacity are measured in global hectares. Footprint accounting exposes the unique risks and opportunities that natural resource constraints pose to each nation.

(Source: Footprint Network, Ecological Footprint-India)

Responsible Tourism is about Respect and Responsibility. Respect the place, act responsibly. Being a tourist does not mean we have rights to act irresponsibly and recklessly.  Enjoy but with caution so as not to disturb the environment. If each one of us starts thinking and acting with little prudence, we and many generations to come can enjoy the magical beauty of mother Earth. 

Like Jia and Ria's father, Mr. Mehta, let's start educating our kids about responsible tourism. Let's begin with being one. Cherish our Earth and it's jewels to pass on to generations to come. 

I am blogging for #ResponsibleTourism activity by Outlook Traveller in association with BlogAdda”. This post speaks my thoughts about Responsible Tourism. An initiative that aims at- "Better places for people to live, and better places for people to visit." 

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