National Awareness And Place Sense By Sachin Bansal
It's Time We Come Together And Look Forward To A Combined Success: Sachin Bansal
If there is one thing that this pandemic has taught us, then that would be ‘compassion’. These unprecedented times threw the individuals into the sea of emotional and financial turmoil. Words that we all have been witness to on social media in the past year have been ‘mental health’, ‘jobless’, ‘lives lost’, ‘poverty’, ‘new normal’, ‘cyclone’, and much more – all painting a picture that is gloomy and dark. While every individual is fighting their own battle, it is time that we as a nation come together and look forward to a combined success instead of fragmented growth. India being a geographically vast land, with a heterogeneous population, the global developmental goals become very difficult to achieve. Fortunately, residents in neighborhoods are still compassionate towards each other, which gives the opportunity to create engagements that will help the revival of the cultural heritage sector.
Cultural heritage is conjoined with our communities, at the periphery and the core. Hence, the work needs to be focused on our communities. The communities who are associated with the tourism industry, the ones who are the ambassadors to our handicrafts and handloom, the people who have been carrying the baton of India’s traditions and culture need to be safeguarded and promoted. In these difficult times, the questions that arise are, how does the nation safeguard these communities? If they are promoted, and eventually they become a tourist attraction, then how do stakeholders ensure that the community members are not exploited? How do the competent authorities ensure that the environment does not deplete but rather replenishes itself? These are some of the most important questions that as citizens we all need to jointly answer and implement in actions. As the tourism industry will gradually open, it is being widely predicted that the focus would move towards lesser-known places, hygienic and cozy home-stays, quaint townships, and nature-driven experiences. It is to reiterate that we need to ensure holistic planning, ensure representation of the community members before imposing our profiteering policies on them.
It is no secret that there have been stringent measures taken by countries to close their borders to visitors and tourists. Tourism has been suspended, and domestic tourism stopped completely because of lockdown in several countries. Some destinations started opening intermittently, but due to the economic crisis travel did not pick up. The tourism sector is an important contributor to income and employment and is a critical sector for the regional and national economies. With these external influences, India’s own domestic tourism has suffered some irreparable loss. People associated with tourism are dispersed; it is a dire situation to handhold and supports the people in need. There is an urgent need to bring ‘National Awareness and Place Sense’ as we need to sensitize tourists about the places and the people under the new normal conditions. When we venture out to protected areas in search of lesser traversed paths, we will have to keep our actions in check, ensuring preservation and restoration. The irony here is that on one hand, the management of protected area sites becomes a priority, and to enhance tourism road access, security, biodiversity, landscape attractions, and local stakeholder engagement has to offer optimal opportunities for private sector participation and community benefits. On the other hand, the customers are looking for an 'experience' - that emotional feeling or personal achievement they get from engaging in unforgettable and inspiring activities which will touch them emotionally. It is time to ensure a balance between this demand and supply, by prioritizing the local communities and their values.
Safety scenarios are changing lives and so is the way of living, communicating, and traveling. The commercial activities undertaken by most communities must integrate the responsible tourism approach of ‘no footprints by city explorers’ to minimize the environmental impact of tourism services in partnership with local businesses. The citizens must be the partakers in maintaining their culture trace, keeping intact the living legacies, and become heritage enthusiasts to sustain their past. India’s tourism infrastructure has got completely shattered due to nil visitations at monuments and nearby areas. The ground reality is far from what we see and what we understand. While virtual tourism did pick up however it could not generate revenues in comparison to the on-ground activities. Maintenance of built heritage, museums, etc got seriously compromised by the fall of tourism revenues and created a negative impact within the backward and forward linkages of the tourism industry. As the times are progressing towards vaccination, it becomes a priority for local stakeholders to initiate the upkeep of their local heritage structures. In this situation, the government has to raise national awareness mechanisms utilizing media and support tourism operators to mobilize the activities. Apart from the government we also need the support of civil society to bring a collaborative approach towards regeneration. The government’s vision documents should support economic recovery and include regional integration, education, and training programs in the tourism sector to boost resilience and mitigate the lost opportunities, protect the lives and livelihoods of local communities.
Every place has a ‘shared heritage’ which connects communities and attracts travellers to experience ‘interactive city discoveries’. The trends and shifts in virtual reality mediums have defined tangible and intangible heritage in a newer way for sensory stimulation. Unfortunately, this does not bring forth awareness. The connected responsibility to ‘save our cultural heritage’ would happen only through rigorous awareness camps, skilling, and deployment of locals as tourist facilitators. The involvements and engagement within stakeholders’ groups to offer curated experiences depend on the availability of human resources and access to the place. ‘Culture Glue’ becomes the foremost engagement parameter for hosts to integrate fun activities for travellers and show them the destination’s transformational potential. Sustainable development of tourism must integrate environmental consciousness to deliver ‘pure experiences’. The macro-level development of heritage tourism must provide economic growth for the local population and generate socio-economic and environmental benefits. Conserving biodiversity and promoting tourism can together be a game-changer for ‘India city discovery’. The incorporation of technological infrastructure should garner environmental stewardship to assess carbon footprints and create navigated ‘friendly routes’ to build connections between people, places, and culture.
Just the way social responsibility initiatives work in the corporate world, the social impact enablers should create opportunities within the cultural heritage sector in such a way that it benefits regional and local touchpoints. In the months and years to come, the ‘India with locals’ should be the mantra towards entrepreneurship models to earn from cultural heritage tourism and keep some percentage of funds based on the profitability of the venture for rejuvenation of the areas. Eco-tourism and responsible tourism practices have to be implemented at every site wherever travellers will visit and bring balance between tourism growths with conservation measures. Community-based engagements like ‘Walk With Tribe’, ‘Regenerative Travel’, ‘India Rural Walks’, India Heritage Walks’ should bring positive changes at the site level and also improve the welfare of local host communities.
The process of developing innovative tourism products needs to be aligned with ‘India Resources’ and selling strategies by intermediaries should align with responsible consumption of destination resources. None of this would be possible if the tourism and the hospitality sectors do not come together if we do not create awareness if we do not value human emotions and traditions. ‘I Love Heritage’ should be the mantra to promote and share ‘incredible India stories’ to develop curiosity amongst the travellers. As quoted by Steve Berry- “A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies - all of the things that quite literally make us who we are”.
Sachin Bansal is the Founder and Chief Explorer® of ‘City Explorers® a Private Limited in India’ and he has multiple flagships functional in the tourism industry. As a destination branding specialist, he has coined the conceptual acronyms and led the co-creation through ‘Experiential Delivery in Tourism (EDiT)™’ and ‘Resonating Experiential Delivery Outcome (REDO)®’.
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