Climate change is with us. It is something we now have to learn to live with. Climate change will have profound consequences for businesses in our sector and people and wildlife in originating markets and destinations. We must also find ways to reduce the amount of carbon that people travelling and on holiday cause to be emitted. We have to change the production and consumption of tourism – travel, accommodation, attractions and activities all need to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through the Awards we would like to showcase examples of technologies, management systems and ways of changing consumer behaviour that have demonstrably reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
2021 India Responsible Tourism Awards
1. Decarbonising Travel and Tourism
Gold: Govardhan Ecovillage, Maharashtra
Govardhan Village is a 100-acre retreat centre and model farm community, a campus that showcases alternative technology and provides residential conferences and study programmes, attracting 50,000 tourists a year. The judges were particularly impressed by the effort which has been made at Govardhan to avoid emissions in the build and operational phases. With zero emissions, 210kW of solar panels deliver 184,800 units of electricity annually... The biogas plant converts cow dung and other wet waste to the equivalent of 30,660 units. The pyrolysis plant processes plastic waste into 18,720 litres of light diesel oil 52,416 units of electricity. Energy monitoring saves 35,250 units. The Soil Bio-Technology plants process sewage into greywater used for irrigation, saving 247,000 units required to pump water from the river and rainwater harvesting is sufficient for months beyond the rainy season. The buildings on the campus are built from compressed stabilised earth blocks (DSEB). While a typical brick wall takes 75 MJ of energy, a CSEB wall at Govardhan takes just 0.275 MJ; all materials are sourced from within 100km to reduce the carbon emissions from transport.
Silver: Invis Multimedia, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Invis Multimedia works closely with Kerala Tourism, since 2018 it has been promoting Crowd Foresting, providing free training to people interested in afforestation and persuading them to create forests on their premises. They follow the afforestation mode developed by Prof. (Dr) Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese botanist. With this method, a forest equivalent to a 10-15 year-old natural forest can be created within a short span of 3-5 years, and a 100-year-old forest can be grown in 25-30 years, in areas as small as 100 sq.m. Prof. Akira Miyawaki himself has led the plantation of four thousand forests in 17 countries with more than 35 million plants. "It is the best way to splash our urban spaces with green and enliven them with mini-ecosystems." Invis Multimedia has created more than 40 patches of urban forests with 50,000 plants over the last three years. In Puliyarakonam, barren rocky land has been transformed into forests and agri-farms. A cost-effective dwelling unit was also designed there based on a zero-carbon concept. A project of Kerala Tourism comprising of 22 forests in an area totalling 1.84 acres spread over the districts of Kerala is now being implemented.
Silver: Lakesong, Kumarakom, Kerala
In common with some other resort hotels in Kumarakom, Lakesong has made a real effort to reduce its emissions. Not a single tree was cut in the construction stage and they used traditional local construction methods: unpolished laterite stones and locally made clay roof tiles. By using natural light and air ventilation, electricity consumption is reduced. Solar power provides a third of what is required. Biogas produced from degradable waste materials is used for cooking, reducing LPG consumption.
2. Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic
We recognise that the pandemic is far from over, and as the World Health Organization rightly reminds us, we are not safe until we are all safe. It will take many more months before travel and holiday volumes recover to whatever the "new normal" will be. We are aware that many businesses and organisations in the travel and tourism sector have worked hard to sustain their employees and the communities in which they operate with really positive impacts around the world. Many of these efforts have involved others in their supply chain and consumers. We would like to recognise and draw attention to those who have successfully helped others, employees and neighbours alike, to weather the storm.
Gold: Sita Travel
Sita responded to the pandemic by maintaining employment and salaries for all employees below middle management, reinstated for middle and senior management from May 2021. They introduced a four-day working week to enable employees to have more family time and achieve a better work-life balance. A company-wide Covid vaccination drive and an Employee Covid Care Plan provide ex gratia payments to support their staff and their family members in unfortunate situations, including death. Sita promptly paid the pending invoices from suppliers, including hotels, guides, and transporters during the pandemic, keeping every small or big vendor associated with Sita in good financial health. They also took the opportunity to provide training to further develop skills in the company.
Silver: Women With Wheels Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Bangalore and Indore.
The Azad Foundation, a professional feminist organisation working across religious and social divides, works to provide livelihoods with dignity for resource-poor women living in urban areas in India. They work with Sakha who employ women drivers: "Our women drivers have taken big risks to learn to drive and pushed hard to become professional chauffeurs. Some of our drivers have had to stand up to violence in the home and stare down their abusers. Others have been belittled by their families for wanting to find work and been told that they will never succeed. Many have been berated by their community for wanting to become a driver and do a man's job." They have trained over 3000 women in 8 cities as professional drivers, with over 1600 employed. They challenge women's mobility restrictions daily by providing 1.5 million safe rides to other women. Their earnings in the last decade have been more than $2.4 million.
One to Watch: Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board
The UTDB covered the accommodation and food costs for tourists stranded by Covid in the state, 960 international tourists and 3300 domestic tourists were safely repatriated. Various fees and registration charges were suspended, and financial assistance was provided for many of those dependent on tourism for their livelihoods. The state continued to invest in tourism development at Kedarnath, the George Everest Heritage Park at Mussoorie and the Wellness City & Convention Centre at Rishikesh. Over 1000 new homestays were registered. It is expected that in 2021 103,000+ people will benefit from different Tourism Related Livelihood Schemes. The judges expect to see further applications from Uttarakhand as these investments bear fruit.
3. Destination Building Back Better Post Covid
In the Awards last year, we saw several destinations which were beginning to rethink the tourist volumes and market segments that they will attract post-Covid and some who were considering demarketing. The apparently inexorable increase in visitor numbers has been halted by the pandemic. Many destinations have had a "breather". A reminder of what their place was like before the hordes arrived. An opportunity to rethink tourism and perhaps to decide to use tourism rather than be used by it.
Gold: Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, Rural Tourism Programme
Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board's Rural Tourism Program is being implemented in 60 villages in the first phase and 40 in the second phase over three years. This project gives the tourist the most authentic and ground breaking rural experience through several rural activities like bullock cart rides, farming and cultural experiences and the opportunity to stay in homestays in rural areas to generate employment and alternative business opportunities for rural communities. Exposure visits and need-based training on homestay operations, cooking, health and hygiene, book-keeping and accounting, housekeeping, guest house management, guiding, sensitivity towards travellers, photography and blogging is being provided. The arrival of tourists has created employment for guides, drivers, artists, and other opportunities for selling goods and services to visitors. The artisans of the villages are also engaged in the diversification of the local economy through handicraft development and promotion under responsible souvenir development programs. At the heart of the project is a commitment to inclusion, "One and all should get their fair share". They are working with panchayats to engage people irrespective of social (physical, literacy level, gender, ability, religious, cultural barriers, etc.) and economic situation (land ownership, income levels, access to services that enhance economic opportunities, etc.)
Silver: Tiger Trails Jungle Lodges, Chichghat Conservancy, Maharastra, INDIA
Recognising that humans and wildlife compete for the same diminishing resources and that the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife preserves cultural heritage, the Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge has used tourism to help rewild barren lands, creating water security for bordering communities and future proof the park landscape. Engaging the local communities in habitat restoration has improved the wildlife viewing experience and created water security; the water table has risen from 48 feet in the 1990s to 12 feet in 2021. This has been good for local communities and for habitat and wildlife. The tribal communities in the Chichghat Valley have benefited economically. The tourism pressure on the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve has been relieved by spreading tourism over a wider area. The replenishment of groundwater has enabled the farmers to grow two crops a year, rice which they traditionally grow in the monsoon and a cash crop like turmeric or vegetables that they can sell through the year in weekly markets.
4. Increasing Diversity in Tourism
We travel to experience other cultures, communities, and places. If everywhere was the same, why travel? Though we seek diversity through travel, we've noticed that diversity is not always reflected in the industry that helps others have such experiences. Diversity is a broad term: "identities include, but are not limited to, ability, age, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, immigration status, intellectual differences, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation." We do not expect to find an organisation that has made demonstrable progress on all of these in the last few years. For our industry, it is about whom we employ at various levels, who we market to, the way we present the destinations we sell, the range of experiences we promote, and the stories we tell. How well do we reflect the diversity of the destinations we sell?
Gold: No Footprints, Mumbai
No Footprints curates niche travel experiences for travellers. Over the last six years, they have crafted twenty-two different Mumbai experiences and are expanding to Delhi. Their ambition is to introduce travellers to the history, culture, and diverse peoples of Mumbai and Delhi. Amongst their most popular tours are Mumbai at dawn, street food walks, Worli Fishing Village, a Colonial Walk and their innovative tour designed to tickle the five senses, sights and sounds, including a personal experience of Bollywood, the taste of Konkan fare, the smells of the spice market and to touch Mumbai through activities in a community centre or by talking a crowded train ride. They offer art and cookery workshops, a heritage cycle tour and an opportunity to experience the excitement of cricket. No Footprints are expanding the range of tours offered to travellers and the intensity of the experiences they provide. Queer*-friendly tours are now offered by a range of companies across India. No Footprints has gone beyond being gay friendly. "No Footprints' Queer's Day Out offers a full day of flirting with various aspects that frame Queer lives of people in the city. The tour includes a visit to a temple of a goddess worshipped by the traditional transgender communities creating an opportunity for conversation about cruising and Grindr, Pride, Coming Out and Drag. Queer individuals curate and lead the tour, ensuring authenticity and enabling tourists to gain an insight into the Queer culture of the city.
One to Watch: Aymanam, Kerala, INDIA
The Responsible Tourism Mission in Kerala, is working in Aymanam to develop tourism in a way that ‘puts people first’ currently through eleven initiatives. 15 activities have been developed in the Aymanam Grama Panchayat, benefiting 600+ community members through over 110 individual, family and group SMMEs. The Responsible Tourism Mission has adopted a very inclusive approach to tourism development, engaging the diversity of people and activities in Aymanam, which has become the first “Model Responsible Tourism Village”. Aymanam was popularised by Arundhati Roy in her Booker Prize Winning Novel ‘God of Small Things.’ The judges look forward to hearing about the success of tourism in Aymanam in a year or two.
One to Watch: Safe Tourism Destinations for Women, Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh recognises that crime against women is rising in India, including in Madhya Pradesh. There is evidence of limited mobility for women for leisure and increasing concern about women's safety in the tourism sector. A special project on "Safe tourist destination for Women in Madhya Pradesh" is proposed by the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board. The proposal has been submitted to the Ministry of Women and Child Development Department under the "Nirbhaya Scheme" for technical support and funding. Since the entry was received, funding has been secured for implementation in a phased manner at 50 destinations in the state in the next three years at a cost of Rs 27.98 crores. Sixty per cent of the project cost will be borne by the Union government and 40 per cent by the state government. The MPTB plans to develop women-friendly tourism destinations by adopting various means to ensure women's safety through community participation, raising public awareness, increasing the numbers of women working in tourism destinations as shopkeepers, guides, taxi and cab driver, naturalists and others. The judges hope to see further entries as this exciting initiative bears fruit.
5. Growing the Local Economic Benefit
There is still a place for CSR1.0 and philanthropy, as is evident from last year's Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic category. However, by adapting the way they do business, accommodation providers and tour operators can create additional market opportunities for local communities in their supply chains and create opportunities to sell goods and services directly to tourists. This diversifies the local economy and enriches the destination in both senses, creating additional livelihoods for locals and a richer range of activities, food and drink, and craft and art products for tourists. Destinations can assist these changes by, amongst other things, providing micro-finance, training and mentoring, creating marketplaces and performance spaces and providing marketing assistance.
Gold: Village Ways
When Covid struck, tourism stopped. Village Ways adapted by developing virtual tours with village communities, including cookery demonstrations, each virtual tour attracted around 200 participants, often renewing old acquaintance across the ether. Village Ways was successful in obtaining training contracts from Madhya Pradesh. They have restructured, closing their UK marketing office, planning to outsource marketing efforts in the UK, and developing further the skills of the Mumbai head office. They are rebuilding first from the Indian domestic market. The Village Ways model is distinctive. Guests are invited to walk through the landscape from village to village with a local guide staying in purpose-built village guesthouses, owned, managed and staffed by the community. All the village committees which manage the guest houses operate transparently. The Binsar project started Village Ways in 2005, working with five villages. They now work with 22 villages delivering tangible economic and social benefits, with employment opportunities for young people who might otherwise migrate to cities. The tourism income complements rather than replaces other income so that households do not abandon traditional work such as farming. They also promote gender equality and social inclusion.
One to Watch: R.O.S.E Kanda, Bageshwar, Uttarakhand
Rural Opportunity for Social Elevation (R.O.S.E.) is a small self-help group offering eco village tourism in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand. Kanda has been a temporary home for many international volunteer tourists to see the village life and culture. R.O.S.E offers an authentic experience of a rural Indian lifestyle. It provides an opportunity to learn about organic farming biodiversity and cottage industries, including construction and local environmental protection. The judges would like to hear more about the impact of this kind of tourism and the benefits to hosts and guests.