Sustainable travel has an image problem. Let’s fix it
- Harder, more expensive, less special and appealing—these are some of the attributes travellers associate with sustainable choices
- Here are fun ideas like stargazing with villagers in Ladakh and kayaking with dolphins in Goa
Sustainable travel is described as the hottest trend in the travel industry. Around the world, businesses ranging from high-end properties to mass tour operators recognize that offering sustainable choices is essential to ensuring that destinations are protected and continue to generate income. In India, too, travel companies like SOTC and Thomas Cook have added to their sustainable travel offerings over the past year.
Despite this, sustainable travel seems to have an image problem. Travellers often don’t know how it is defined, or what it can involve. According to a 2019 survey by travel aggregator Booking.com, 79% of Indian travellers want to make sustainable choices when they travel. Yet, 46% say they don’t want to think about sustainability during their holiday, which is a special time. For 52%, other options are more appealing; 42% don’t know how to make their travel more sustainable; 60% say it is harder to make sustainable choices on holiday than in daily life.
Clearly, the messaging isn’t working. “I think we have done a disservice by always harping on the idea of ‘doing good for the planet, for the people, instead of focusing on the deeper, richer experiences. Undoing this will take time,” says Soity Banerjee, adviser, Outlook Responsible Tourism Initiative, which promotes responsible travel through awards, events and content. Just back from Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, Banerjee vouches from personal experience that sustainable holidays are fun, infinitely more memorable, and rarely expensive.