Sustainable tourism: Another showpiece in India


Sustainable tourism is the phrase being emphasised by many in the tourism sector that have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic severely. But are the policymakers doing enough to create a sustainable tourism ecosystem?

“The main guiding principle of the Policy is to promote sustainable, responsible and inclusive tourism, which will cut across all the initiatives under the policy to make India one of the topmost destinations for sustainable and responsible tourism. The policy aims to promote sustainable tourism by minimizing the negative impact of tourism on social, environmental and economic aspects and maximizing the positive impact.

The policy further advocates responsible tourism to bring all Stakeholders together for taking responsibility for achieving sustainable tourism and to create better places for people to live in and for people to visit. The Policy also focuses on inclusive growth of tourism by creating opportunities for marginalized sections of society including people living in remote areas.”

I got an opportunity to go through the revised National Tourism Policy Draft of India and the above quote is taken from the same. How thoughtful! How glittery! Definitely, India will be acknowledged by all conscious travellers, if we could reach our goals. Even 50% is also fine! But it’s all greenwash. The most important point in sustainability is that it should start at some point and progress from there. This is not happening in India.

It’s very good to hear that the policy will take care of the basic 3 Ps, People, Planet and Profit! But absolute bullshit! Pandemic proved that India doesn’t know the meaning of Sustainability in Tourism. And now they are trying to make their own sustainability criteria. Who will acknowledge the same?

Sustainable Tourism

People Factor Greenwash

Recently many of you might have come across a video from Royson Joseph, who used to be a leading luxury coach operator in Kochi, explaining the pathetic situation faced by the tourist transport operators. Why I mention this name is because this incident proves that we are a big failure in protecting the “People” factor in Sustainability in Tourism. I still remember the kind of support Royson extended to our agency during a huge conference which resulted in getting us the Gold award for the best logistic support in Kerala.

Such a professional coach operator had to sell the majority of his coaches to run his family. He was giving jobs to around 100 people. Now he is at the edge of winding up everything. Just because of the discard of the Tourism Department and the Government. Absolutely no assistance came from the Government except a few additional loan schemes which many banks refused to disburse to tourism companies. Wasn’t pandemic a big opportunity for the Tourism Ministry to start the sustainability on the human element? Can we replace passionate professionals like Royson?

Kashmir sustainable tourism

Planet Factor Greenwash

It’s very interesting to talk loudly on the most demanding terms these days like Global Warming, Climate Change, C02 emissions, Carbon neutrality and the like. And easily boasting about some magic figures by 2030 and again by 2050…We have not yet started boss, to reach anywhere! Kerala, such a pretty natural bliss has brought Caravan Tourism as the most innovative tourism product to tide over the losses due to the Pandemic.

When the minister announced the project, it was mentioned that Caravan parks will be set only at locations where no accommodations are available and looking after all environmental impacts. Now the first Caravan Park in Kerala is getting inaugurated at Vagamon, one of the most eco fragile locations in Kerala. And the most unsustainably developed destination with many concrete structures in the middle of beautiful Nature.

Moreover, the most crowded destination with day-trippers. Did we do any kind of biodiversity impact studies? Why should the poor villagers in the remote regions inhale all these emissions of Caravans? The State itself is promoting huge Caravans built on a platform of a 35 seater large coach to accommodate just two passengers! Sustainability at its peak!

I have many good points on the beautifully drafted National Tourism Policy. But if it’s going to be another Greenwash, the global travel community will react in a shocking way. India should set its priorities on an urgent basis to see how the Nation can support the survival followed by revival. Millions of lives and livelihoods suffered and still suffering. Just because of the inaction of the Governments.

IAS officers think that they learn everything from the IAS Academy and do what they feel is right. Ministers are ignorant enough not to interfere! The implementation officers for Sustainability has not studied the subject and think that India can just greenwash the globe by bringing its own sustainability criteria. We are living in the world of the internet which brings everything everywhere. Global surveillance will not blink their radars for India.

I will conclude by highlighting the importance of understanding sustainability in the most acceptable manner, starting the implementation from right now so that we have something to tell the world that India could do this much to sustain our people in the Tourism industry and a step further protecting our Planet. If we fail now, the losses are irreparable.

Also Read: The spirit of Kashmiriyat

(George Scaria is the Managing Director of Keralavoyages India Pvt Ltd, a Travelife Certified Tour Operator.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


  1. Through this article, the author beautifully, but boldly questioned bogus claims and declarations made by our authorities. As usual government agencies uses some terms in international responsible tourism sector without understanding it’s basic principles. As the author pointing out, the tourism department is guided by beurocrates with out vision, mission and field knowledge. Just like many of our government agencies, tourism department is also a white elephant. The ministers are fascinated by new terms copied from abroad by their advicers and think that is the most innovative, probably because they are ignorant about international tourism scenario . Take the example of Caravan tourism, can anyone supporting this so called ‘innovative’ product, point out few of its advantages in the context of Kerala, it’s culture, nature or geography? How can one claim Caravan tourism is innovative. As the author said Caravan tourism has no financial viability in the contact of Kerala Tourism. Ultimately this will lead to illegal and forbidden tourism activities.
    This is an excellent article with creative critical reviews


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