Thursday, December 09, 2021 | Jumada al-ula 4, 1443 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Covid-19 to speed up responsible tourism
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With the tourism trend tilted in favour of the hospitality sector, the pandemic has left many unanswered questions for hospitality operators. The first and foremost is how to get into responsible tourism, which is very close to sustainable tourism. The catastrophe the world witnessed in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic will live long, directly in the memory of four generations, which experienced it and among the generations to come through the pages of history. This may prove to be a catalyst for responsible tourism.


It will be a great reminder for everyone that many of the practices in the hospitality sector are not sustainable. The pandemic has allowed everyone to cut down on what is not needed. It took years for the people to understand that “less is more”.


Where exactly we missed and what


is making us rethink?


Hena Pandey, an environmentalist and a social activist involved in education, and promotion of oriental products, says: “We missed in our own speed and greed. Hardly we knew that we were speeding. It has become our way of life. We were competing for nothing. We ignored the sufferings of our neighbours and got our own definitions of prosperity. Prosperity lost its relevance and got limited only to money and wealth. People failed to realise that health and happiness were crucial constituents of prosperity. Covid has put a break; we are forced to slow down.”


Hena tried to relate her thoughts with responsible tourism and said, “There is no coordination between the stakeholders. Everyone is competing for his own benefits without any regard for ethics. Tourists have the potential to contribute to the economy. It is a fact that the tourists add value to economic, environmental, socio-cultural and institutional sustainability. But, they have to be genuine in demand and behaviour. While visiting a new place or a country, they should respect the destination’s culture, which is a direct outcome of its environment.” If it is the responsibility of the tourists to be responsible. Other stakeholders like tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers, governments, and local people also have to make tourism sustainable because they are direct or indirect beneficiaries of tourism.


The pandemic has its direct impact on carbon emission. Plenty of reports suggest a drastic cut in carbon emission during the pandemic. However, it is not a good idea to stop people’s movement to cut down on carbon emissions; still, there are many other ways the tourists and tourism service providers can help reduce carbon emissions. They have to derive new plans while accepting the fact that the plans they were working with didn’t match with the thoughts of responsible tourism.


Commenting on tourism in the current scenario, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, said, “Sustainability must no longer be a niche part of tourism but must be the new norm for every part of our sector. This is one of the central elements of our global guidelines to restart tourism. It is in our hands to transform tourism, and that emerging from Covid-19 becomes a turning point for sustainability.”


Some environmentalists believe that governments should set carbon benchmarks for tourism. And it may be easy now to introduce because everything has to start from scratch after a halt of almost two years. The hospitality industry needs to move in a sustainable direction to benefit the environment and communities, and businesses in general. The biggest lesson the world can learn from the pandemic is accepting sustainability not only in theory but also in practice. Over a period of time, sustainability may become a norm for the tourism sector.


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