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Making Sustainable Travel Go Mainstream

Responsible travel took centrestage at SATTE (South Asia Travel & Tourism Exchange) 2017.

18/02/2017 12:55 AM IST | Updated 21/02/2017 3:07 PM IST

Sustainable tourism is putting the environment back into focus, and indeed, it is the only way to go forward. With the Travel and Tourism Industry growing to trillions of US dollars each year, the need for bringing awareness on a global level is undeniable.

With the United Nations designating 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, much needed emphasis is being placed on tourism that aims to achieve a balance between economic development, green growth and protection of our planet's natural as well as cultural assets.

Protecting the natural and cultural heritage of a place, minimising the use of plastic products, and extending support to local communities are ways to ensure a positive impact.

One such initiative was recently announced at the 24th edition of SATTE (South Asia Travel & Tourism Exchange) 2017 in Delhi. Organised by UBM Group, SATTE is said to be India's flagship travel and tourism expo. With over 870+ participants from over 40 countries and 28 Indian States, and supported by UNWTO and the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, SATTE 2017 did a great job at putting sustainable travel on a bigger stage.

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Mr. Yogesh Mudras, managing director, UBM India, spoke about the dire need for the entire travel industry to embrace eco-friendly tourism, sustainable travel trends and responsible tour practices. Speaking on the 24th edition of SATTE, Mr. Mudras said that the current economic conditions have placed the world of tourism at an extremely interesting juncture, especially when seen from India's perspective.

He pointed out that, in tune with the UN's mission, to bring about a positive environmental change via the travel and tourism industry is centre-stage at SATTE. Making the sustainable side of travel mainstream at a global event like this is definitely a positive and much needed change.

Environmentally friendly practices like protecting the natural and cultural heritage of a place, minimising the use of plastic products, and extending support to local communities by employing local staff and buying local products are ways to ensure a positive impact. Mr. Mudras said that SATTE aims at helping tourism boards, hotels, tour operators, airlines and cruises chart the course for a new direction in the travel and tourism industry—one that leads to clean beaches, forests and mountains; that fosters local economic development; and that ensures the conservation and longevity of cultural traditions and architectural treasures.

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Going ahead, Mr. Mudras said that SATTE is looking forward to extend support in terms of more visibility at the expo to brands, tourism boards and operators who incorporate sustainable tourism in offerings and functionality. This could go a long way in supporting and highlighting the responsible side of travel.

Because let's face it, sustainable travel is still a niche movement. A few giants in the game have set up sustainable practices while the others completely ignore the idea. Travellers also rarely follow best practices because of lack of resources or awareness.

Between the concept of Responsible Luxury that the ITC Hotels follow, and the close-to-ground sustainability practices like that of various home stays, it is clear that the ways to include sustainability in travel are ever evolving and dynamic. However, the Indian travel and tourism industry is starting to realise the undeniable need to protect and preserve the environment—every step helps, every gesture counts.

In a foreword message to SATTE, Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said, "...Significantly, SATTE 2017 is one of the first meetings of the international tourism community in South Asia since the launch of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 in January. Proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Year is a crucial moment to make tourism an effective and dynamic tool in building a safer, more inclusive, prosperous and sustainable world for all."

Sustainability in the travel and tourism industry is something that needs to be given the utmost importance, and it is good to see this initiative that aims at just that.

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