Responsible Tourism: Need of the Hour!

The Responsible Tourism Society of India was established in 2008 by concerned, rather alarmed, industry professionals who had been witnessing the impact of tourism activity on the environment over several decades. Suddenly, with a boom in travel, there was an element of urgency to do something about it. The then Hon’ble Minister fully appreciated the need and offered all ‘support’. But it had to be an Industry initiative supported by the Industry!!! Only then, it could work meaningfully, as then the message would percolate down, with its own trickle-down effect.

So, the Eco Tourism Society of India was registered as a Society. It was not an Association to look after the interests of any segment of the industry. Our mandate was to spread awareness and knowledge of responsible and sustainable practices, both equally among tourism services providers and travellers and work with the governments, at the centre and in the states, to establish codes of conduct and lay down criteria based on global norms. Later, to make it more inclusive, the name of the Society was changed to “Responsible Tourism Society Of India”. If eco-tourism was limiting, being responsible was wider in its embrace.

From day one, three things were clear. Awareness and knowledge had to be imparted at the grassroots and hands-on level. Secondly, the problem was critical in the unorganised sector, which still forms 70% of the industry. And finally, travellers had to be sensitised, especially the low budget traveller, which is predominantly the ‘Religious’ traveller in India.

The challenge thus for us was, and still remains, how to fund this activity!! We went about convincing the industry that this was an extremely important philanthropic and selfless activity. It is a “Pay Back” to the industry. It is about long-term sustenance of our tourism assets and thus our industry. It is not an Association fees that would directly benefit the contributors. So, nothing tangible should be expected in return. Contributions are approved under CSR and Tax exempt, which should also help organizations and corporates to come forward and play their part in this initiative.

We thus evolved a membership scheme. Contributors would be recognised as being selfless and thinking of the country, the environment, the long-term benefits would accrue to all, rather than any immediate profits and gains to themselves!

It now boggles my mind that the bulk of our members are the medium to small operators and resort owners who care. They are contributing to a cause. Selflessly. Not looking at direct benefits or returns.

What is alarming is that the larger companies, both foreign multinationals as well as Indian global companies operating in India don’t seem to appreciate this and make a minuscule contribution to the cause. Obviously, they believe they are doing enough for the environment with their own internal initiatives. These efforts, to my mind, laudable in themselves, do not benefit the stand-alone operators, the medium level properties, and others who do not have similar professional access to knowledge. We need to reach out to the small guys in the business.

Some good work has been done by us, in this while. We helped the Ministry of Tourism to draft the Sustainable Tourism Criteria and the Code of Conduct for Safe & Honourable Tourism. We conduct workshops. We have a Self-Certification scheme. We made videos for a Responsible Traveller campaign which needs funds to go national. We have a Resource Centre. We have formulated Eco Tourism policies for a few states. We have certified Eco Tourism Destinations, such as Karma Lakelands and Empyrean Resorts.


The author is a veteran hotelier, the Founding Member & Honorary President of the Responsible Tourism Society of India (



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