Pandemic makes tourists conscious of environmental costs

Over-tourism, pollution of beaches & waterways top concerns for tourists, says survey

Tourism

June 16, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Pandemic makes tourists conscious of environmental costs

With increase in number of tourists, there has been tremendous pressure on the natural ecosystems at popular destinations (MIG Photos/ Varsha Singh)

A survey shows a shift towards sustainable tourism globally, with over 31 pc Indians interested in finding more environment friendly options for their post-pandemic travel plans.

Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Indian tourism saw a dramatic growth contributing over 6.8 pc to the GDP of the country in 2019. With an increase in number of tourists, there has been tremendous pressure on the natural ecosystems like increase in pollution, depletion of groundwater levels or waste generation leading to a severe ecological crisis, especially at popular destinations.

However, the coronavirus pandemic may have brought sustainability issues to the forefront. A Sustainable Travel Trends survey launched on June 2, 2021 to mark World Environment Day by Agoda, a digital travel platform, says that over-tourism, pollution of beaches and waterways are the top two concerns of tourists.

Indicating that travellers by and large relate sustainability with environment, the survey noted that, deforestation and energy inefficiencies including overconsumption of electricity and water are other main concerns of Indian travellers while planning a trip post Covid-19 pandemic.

The survey also stated that easy identification of sustainable eco-friendly travel options, limited use of single-use plastics and financial incentives for accommodation providers who maximise energy efficiencies are additional measures that tour operators and governments need in order to make travel more sustainable.

Pandemic impacts attitudes towards sustainable travel

The pandemic has offered an opportunity to governments and citizens to revive the tourism industry without damaging the environment through sustainable tourism.

The desire to travel more sustainably has become more prevalent among Indian tourists with over 31 pc people wanting to travel while being more conscious of the environment.

“Like everyone, once the situation becomes safer I want to travel. This time I would prefer to travel someplace calm and serene with less pollution and noise, and go for destinations close to nature as I feel after such a stressful time one needs to just relax and connect with nature,” Abha Wadhwa, a Delhi-based teacher tells Media India Group.

Indian travellers’ carbon footprint is fourth-largest in the world, says study (MIG Photos/Varsha Singh)

While there can be several reasons behind the shift towards sustainable travel, many tour operators believe that it is because of the fear and consciousness about one’s health instilled in people due to the pandemic and that the people will return to their usual self as soon as things return to normal.

“People are scared because of Covid-19 and now the first thing a traveller thinks about while planning a vacation is the situation of the virus. What is the number of active cases at the destination, the lesser the crowd the better, how healthy is the environment, these are the questions generally asked. But I feel that this is going to be temporary as once people are vaccinated and there will be no cases, then travel industry will go back to normal, as it was in the pre-Covid-19 era,” Sushil Chugh, founder, UdanChhoo.com, an online travel agency, tells Media India Group.

Who is responsible for making changes?

According to Agoda’s survey, over 24 pc Indians hold the government most accountable for making positive environmental changes around travel.

“Travel Industry needs to be rejuvenated. We can see from the survey that along with the tourists and tour operators like us, the government also needs to take the lead on managing sustainable travel in the post pandemic scenario,” says Chugh.

While 22 pc citizens say it’s the responsibility of tourism authorities and 20 pc hold the tourists accountable. Many Indians feel the need to sensitise their fellow citizens regarding the importance of not disrupting the natural ambience of a destination by indulging in thoughtless activities.

“I think it is everyone’s responsibility to maintain the beauty of the destination you visit, it can done through simple measures like not throwing the garbage on roads,” says Wadhwa.

Though long-term sustainability requires a fine balance between economic growth and environmental concerns, the survey shows a ray of hope towards tourists achieving a meaningful experience while taking cognisance of environmental costs through sustainable tourism.

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