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World Tourism Day :Slow, Off-beat, Nature Travel in Demand

In the post pandemic era, domestic tourism is likely to grow, as people are fad up with monotonous lifestyle, following the work from home (WFH) culture and no options of getting refreshed. However, safety and hygiene is considered to be the new luxury in the changing time. With the possible opening of the foreign tourists’ entry into India in the first week of January 2022, as the vaccination drive will be almost over by December end, tourism scene in India is likely to turn colourful in the New Year.

The domestic tourists are looking for quick local getaways on the weekends, mostly via road. As the Airbnb and YouGov survey on future trends of tourism reflects, Indian travellers are planning for nature travel to recharge themselves from the mundane lifestyle following the lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed by various state governments considering the Covid guidelines. In a recent survey on the future of tourism in India, 77% respondents stated that they would book hotels after observing the health and hygiene situation of the destination.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), International tourism has witnessed a loss of $1.3 trillion in 2020, while the Indian tourism industry saw a revenue loss of $ 1.25 trillion, as per the CARE Rating study. The pandemic has impacted the tourism industry and will continue to underperform for the next two quarters. UNWTO has designated World Tourism Day (September 27, 2021) as a day to focus on ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth’. Emphasis will be on formulating policies to ensure that nobody is left behind as the world begins to open up again and looks to the future.

The losses to the Indian Tourism Industry have been huge in the previous year, but the coming time shows the revival of tourism with the increase in vaccination. The states that are getting maximum tourists are Himachal, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Kerala and Goa. According to international research, an investment of Rs 10 lakh in the tourism industry provides employment to 78 persons, while the manufacturing sector generates only 45 jobs with the similar investment. Tourism will account for 9.9 per cent of the country’s GDP by the end of this decade with the help of Government initiatives.

People now value the slow pace of life. They are not in a hurry to visit many places in a limited time. Solo travel is also trending. If we talk about Indian travellers, as noted by the travel agencies, there is a growing demand for off-beat tourism, which is affordable and offers adventure too, while helping local communities. People now prefer accommodations which offer them a private kitchen or a separate room for personal staff. Harsh Goenka, Chairman, RPG Enterprises, says, “Tourism will come back with a vengeance. People will like to visit natural surroundings, more sustainable spots, more remote locations, more authentic experiences; but all this is supported with digital solutions and modern amenities.”

Jamyang Tshering Namgyal, MP from Ladakh, says, “With the outbreak of the pandemic, the tourism sector in Ladakh suffered a large drop in business activities. Besides this, every year we also see the region mostly cut off from the rest of the country in the harsh winter season. Therefore, to counter such challenges, we are deliberating to make Ladakh a ‘Sustainable Tourist Destination’ so that round the year the region can get business.”

Professionals are considering sustainable travel choices that are closer to remote communities and nature, but are accessible and affordable. A group of senior doctors and surgeons from a big private hospital in Chandigarh preferred to visit Ladakh at a slow pace recently, mingling with the local communities on the way. They travelled from Srinagar to Leh on their bicycles, staying at various local hotels and guest houses. This constitutes a new travel trend.

With the growing awareness about the negative impact of too much tourism in ecological fragile regions, like in the Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh etc., the importance of responsible and sustainable tourism is being felt more than ever. As Nihar Sharma, President, Sustainable Tourism Foundation, puts it, “We are planning to intensify our awareness campaigns regarding sustainable tourism practices and educating people about the importance of responsible tourism.” 

Bhikhu Sanghasena, Founder and President, Save the Himalayas Foundation (SHF), Leh, Ladakh, says, “We have only one Himalaya. Saving the Himalayas is not only necessary for the welfare of local communities, but also for the betterment of the world.” The organization spearheads the campaign to preserve the environment, ecology and culture of the Himalayas.

By Narvijay Yadav. The author is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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