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People, Planet And Profit: Key To Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism should be developed as part of organizations’ business as well as social and environmental strategy, writes, Shailesh Tyagi

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With the pandemic fear subsiding and travel restrictions eased, more people are traveling and the tourism industry is seeing a revival. Tourism is a fast-growing industry but also among those that affect environmental and social parameters. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to develop sustainable tourism as its goal is to maintain the positive aspects of travel while reducing the detrimental effect on the environment and culture. 

Destinations that are thinly populated, off-track and connected to nature are high on the list of aware travelers, which is another factor leading to the growth of sustainable tourism. According to the study carried out by Booking.com, more than 87 per cent of people are interested in traveling sustainably.

According to Future Market Insights (FMI), the sustainable tourism market is expected to grow 33.3 per cent in 2022 compared to the previous year. The demand for sustainable tourism will reach USD 1.0 trillion dollars in 2022. A compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.4 per cent is anticipated for the market between 2022 and 2032. According to estimates, the global sustainable tourism market accounts for 2 per cent to 5 per cent of the parent market (travel and tourism industry)[1]. 

Given the increasing demand on all industries to review their business parameters in terms of environmental and social impact, sustainable travel is expected to follow a triple bottom line approach of People, Planet and Profit. This can be achieved by building a framework based on the efficient consumption of resources and economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism. 

A significant portion of tourism relies on the environment. The Blue Economy, which is expanding and sustainable, depends heavily on the coastal and marine tourism sector, which supports more than 6.5 million jobs worldwide, second only to industrial fishing. Coastal and maritime tourism is predicted to be the largest value-adding sector of the ocean economy by 2030, with growth rates of more than 3.5 per cent expected on a global scale.  

The numbers clearly indicate that sustainable tourism is booming and is also travelers’ choice as they become more conscious of their carbon footprint and how it affects local wildlife, people, small businesses, and indigenous cultures. However, the golden rule of campsites — leave it better than you found it — is frequently disregarded during modern travel. 

There are several ways to remedy the harmful effects of tourism and develop it sustainably as a mutually beneficial exchange. The top three aspects of developing sustainable tourism and its operations are: 


  • Reduce ecological impact: Certain ecosystems are particularly fragile and can get destroyed by excessive human activity. To combat this, many local government agencies and tour operators allow the movement of tourists only through permits and/or by capping the number of visitors allowed each day. For instance, after the pandemic, in Bhutan, Indian tourists have to pay INR1,200 per day as Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) and other international tourists have to pay USD 200 dollars per day.


  • Preserve cultural heritage: Sustainable tourism is essential to allow the co-existence of cultural heritage and tourism. Tourists should be encouraged to respect local communities and their practices. More importantly, the local people must be encouraged to actively lead the planning and development of their regional assets with the assistance of the government and other relevant bodies.


  • Promote socio-economic benefits for local communities: Sustainable tourism ensures that communities are fairly compensated for their time, effort and use of resources. For instance, in island economies where a sizable portion of the residents’ jobs entails taking care of tourists. With equity as the goal, there should be an unbiased distribution of benefits and costs among tourism promoters and hosts of the areas. 

Making sustainable tourism long-term 

Tourism is viewed as a tool to revitalize economies and value conservation. Therefore, organizations can play a pivotal role in making sustainable tourism a mainstay in two ways: one, by integrating tourism into their planning and strategy based on research on the destinations’ environment and socio-economic aspects; and two, by consulting stakeholders and the public in devising the strategies. They need to market tourism responsibly to avoid any pitfalls. 

The other important factor for companies to consider is technology, which plays a massive role in many industries and can help tourism as well. The use of technology can improve energy efficiency and water conservation; electric vehicles can reduce the use of fossil fuels; bio-degradable material can limit the impact of waste. 

In addition, those performing frontline functions must be trained in sustainability, preserving biodiversity and using resources sustainably. Organizations’ strategy must include reducing excessive consumption and waste, assisting local communities and supporting local economies to preserve their heritage. 

The author is Partner at Climate Change and Sustainability Services, EY India.


Tags assigned to this article:
tourism sector travel services climate change sea trade

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