This year the theme of World Tourism Day 2022 is “Rethinking Tourism”. The International Day of Observance will focus on re-imagining the sector’s growth, both in terms of size and relevance. Every year a different country is selected by United Nations World Tourism Organisation(UNWTO) to host the official day (27th September) in their country and, this year ‘The Republic of Indonesia’ is hosting this day. All UNWTO Member States, as well as non-members and stakeholders from across the private sector, are invited to host their own celebrations as well as to promote the day and its central theme. World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27th September every year since 1980. The date marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Statutes of the Organization in 1970, paving the way for the establishment of UNWTO five years later in 1975.United Nations World Tourism Organisation is the highest international body in the field of tourism, United Nations World Tourism Organisation(UNWTO) promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide. It has 160 Member States, 6 Associate Members, 2 Observers and over 500 Affiliate Members. Today, tourism has a problem and needs a complete rethink. International to national tourism bodies are concerned about the tourismphobia, over tourism and peak tourism. Cities are witnessing backlash against imposed forms of tourism. As per United Nations World Tourism Organisation(UNWTO), “The organisation will highlight the opportunity to rethink how we do tourism in future. This means putting people and planet first and bringing everyone from government and businesses to local communities together around a shared vision for a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient sector”. That means it is a great opportunity to give a new concept of tourism to the world. It is high time to rethink tourism because COVID-19 pandemic offered the tourism industry an opportunity to rethink and rebuild tourism. Time is to give a new shape to the national policies of the tourism industry and mostly give chance to such types of tourism that are having minimum environmental and cultural impacts and maximum economic and social benefits. Some types of tourism among them are Sustainable, Eco and Regenerative Tourism. Everyone(whether tourists or the local community) should take pledge that they won’t spoil the places they visit anymore and that the places remain available for future generations to enjoy. We shall always improve a place and make it better than we find it. Then only we can save our environment and tourism destinations from different unpleasant disasters. While speaking about this year’s World Tourism Day, The Secretary-General of UNWTO said, “Rethinking one of the world’s major economic sectors will not be easy. But we are already well on the way. Crisis has inspired and catalyzed creativity. And the pandemic accelerated the transformation of work, bringing both challenges as well as enormous opportunities to ensure even more people get to benefit from tourism’s restart”.
Normally, tourism industry is in quest of profits from tourism and governments back this industry for the revenues and jobs it provides. It should be the secondary aim of tourism now. To rethink tourism we require shifting the focus to the local community. We don’t appreciate local community, their culture, their religion and hardly give them employment at the destination. Moreover, Some tourists also behave badly at the destination which can not only prove threat to the Local Tourism but also to the Global tourism as well. We have a very recent example of such tourists when they appeared on the streets of Srinagar while taking alcohol in the daylight. On the other day local community were seen expressing their anguish and aggression on the media against them.Such activities of tourists hurt the cultural and religious sentiments of the local community. It is a part of anti-tourist sentiment, driven by “the bad manners and abhorrent actions” of some visitors from abroad, reportedly growing all over the world. Unless the tourism industry does something to address underlying aggravations, such sentiments are likely to spread. There’s danger tourism, instead of building bridges for cross-cultural understanding and friendship, It will add to the stereotypical walls that separate people. On the other hand, humans impact the physical environment in many ways like pollution, burning fossil fuels, overpopulation and deforestation. The changes like these have triggered climate change, soil erosion, poor air quality, and undrinkable water. These negative impacts can affect human behaviour and can prompt decline of tourism destinations, mass migrations or battles over clean water. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) and the World Meteorological Organisation, over the next four decades there will be more heat waves, floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events, as well as large fires and rising sea levels. If necessary steps are not taken immediately, these developments can’t be stopped anymore. As a responsible citizen, we need to take all necessary steps to mitigate climate change. The need of an hour is to adopt the pragmatic approach rather than idealistic one. Only international or national conferences and webinars are not going to fight against global warming and other environmental issues. If practical steps are not taken now, the consequences for tourism will be very dangerous and unpleasant. Many natural attractions, forests, national parks, glaciers etc. will disappear; many traditional beach holiday areas will become too hot in summer to function; and low-lying islands and seaside cities will be at risk of storm surge. Some products, like skiing holidays or river cruises, will disappear. Global economic development will not necessarily slow down, as the changing situation will create the need for many new inventions, including fossil-free land, water, and air transportation, as well as a change in the way urban areas are organised. Tourism will not disappear. However, concentrations of wealth and potential customers for international tourism will partly shift to new countries. And it will be radically different from today’s leisure and relaxation orientated tourism. There will be more meaningful and experience-orientated activities, many of which will be indoors or virtual. MICE travel(meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) will continue to exist but will no longer grow. Individuals are obliged to take mandatory steps to preserve the environment that everyone is a part of. With everyone’s efforts and dedication, we can be sure that all of it will definitely make a huge difference and help the environment in becoming healthy and sustainable. Let me conclude with the oft-quoted lines of Robert Swan, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it”. This is what we need to rethink. So let’s do it now.
(The author is an alumni of Department of Tourism, University of Kashmir. Views are his own)