I just finished reading a wonderful book by Amitabh Kant titled Branding India: An Incredible Story. Although the publication is currently unavailable in the United States market, I was fortunate to have a friend send it from India. The book explores how India developed and expanded its tourism platform after 2002, including the launch of the Incredible !ndia campaign. As Kant states, "How do you bring a magnificently diverse country - with twenty-eight states, seven union territories, eighteen official languages, and 1.2 billion people - under one brand?" Quite an accomplishment.
One of the topics Kant discusses is the promotion of Responsible Tourism: people who believe in leaving the destination a better place than when they found it. Kant writes, "Responsible Tourism will contribute by maintaining both the natural and cultural heritage of the destination, conserving the living culture of the people and attracting the right kind of visitor." Many travelers in the United States also brand this type of travel Eco-tourism, although the technical definition of Eco-tourism is environmental and not cultural preservation. With a growing interest in green/sustainable energy, many are also requesting tours that incorporate these same elements in their travel package.
Intention and action are very important components of Responsible Tourism. However, I also believe it is the information we share upon returning home after our travel experiences. Not liking particular components of a destination, ie hotels, weather, crowds, etc, should not be expressed as disrespect for cultural practices. We all have our preferences and enjoy different activities. Some prefer luxury accommodations and scheduled touring while others prefer modest accommodations with a leisurely itinerary. However, there are times when people return home from a trip, not just to the Indian sub-continent, and talk condescendingly about a particular culture. I feel it is our responsibility as international travelers - or global participants, as I like to call it - to try and see the beauty in traditions, even if they are a complete reversal from our own. I personally find that 99% of the time, there is a deeper meaning as to why people did not like the country. It had nothing to do with the cultural aspects, but was instead something else. In the end, let us try and appreciate the diversity itself without judging the why or how. And, most importantly, let us responsibly communicate these opinions from a place of consideration.
If you are interested in packages that promote Responsible Tourism, please let us know!