"Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going."
- Paul Theroux

Views & Interviews

Tourists for environment protection

April 2017

This month we touch upon a tourism issue that is being taken seriously in the hospitality industry – “the concern for environment protection on a vacation”.  So while more and more people are getting aware about the need to do something, where do you go from here?

Let’s talk about the industry that we are in – timeshare, or vacation ownership.

On the one hand resort owners need to drive the implementation of ecotourism practices at their resorts. You can start with outlining a set of easy-to-understand guidelines that visitors and tourists can follow. At a second level you need to go from awareness to implementation – by helping your guests follow these guidelines.

A good place to start is aiming to protect the environment around us - living spaces where forests survive, water bodies retain their pristine state - and where animal and bird life don’t feel threatened by the presence of visitors, or tourists.

It’s also got to do with not damaging the existing landscape that has survived in its natural form over the years. Guests and visitors must leave a tourist location in the same condition as they found it. No litter, no mess, no signs of intrusion.

So we decided to check with our panel of tourists and customers – to get an idea of awareness and listen to their concerns and observations.

Manoj Keshav, IT professional

What I find absolutely shocking is the amount of litter we can generate – especially on vacation. Cigarette butts, water bottles, biscuit & chocolate wrappers, empty foil packs, paper plates, food remnants – the list goes on and on.

On a forest or cross-country trek for instance, we need to carry along a convenient dump bag with us that can contain litter the group typically generates – each one of us could also carry our own individual dump bags if that can make things simpler. I’ve seen litter being dropped from tourist boats along picturesque stretches of river – and this tends to float or even sink to be swallowed by fish. (And that spins off a whole new set of problems . . .)

123RF / using member credits

Kavita Iyer, marketing professional

While littering is unpardonable, I have seen other potentially dangerous practices that need to be prevented at any cost. I have seen tourists lighting a camp fire right in the middle of a forest only to roast small animals they trap and catch along the way. These people don’t think they are doing anything wrong, but “living life outdoors” – it’s their perception of freedom to do as they please.

While this is open to interpretation and debate, I do feel extremely uncomfortable when I see this happening.  Another concern that I must mention here is the need to extinguish camp fires according to safety guidelines –live embers can easily be rekindled by a gentle breeze.

Poonam Singh, design professional

I too have seen some horrible things being done on treks and group tours inside forest areas. I have seen people carving their names (or names of their girlfriends) on trees, or etched onto large boulders. Another visible example of a location being “invaded”.

I’ve also seen littering during these treks that happens without any responsibility or restraint. Chewing gum wrappers, empty packets of chips, or biscuits and yes . . . even cigarette packets. Though most tour guides prevent and ban such behavior, there could be one devious person who gets away with it.

Arun Vincent, insurance marketer

I do find Poonam Singh’s observations shocking and repulsive – certainly not the kind of behavior we would expect from city folk who need to be aware of this in the first place. What I have seen is equally shocking. I once saw a group of teenagers actually take out eggs from a bird’s nest. The same group went about taking selfies in the area. And when it got a bit dark in the evening these kids continued to take pictures, with a blaze of mobile camera flashes going off every few minutes. In the forest, you can spot a camera flash from a really long distance along the line of sight – and this can be very disturbing to the birds and animals out there.

What you’ve just read are some truly horrible examples of bad behavior on a trek, or visit to the forest. Bad enough to be a punishable offense, in some serious way. For starters it would even make sense to ban snack, soft drinks, mobiles and cigarettes.

Littering is bad enough, but we don’t want to start a forest fire.

AIRDA also represents the industry within government circles on policy issues that could have a bearing on timeshare and vacation ownership in the country.

AIRDA has a balanced end-customer focus and provides updated information on the official website. This covers the timeshare marketplace, advice on making informed choices on vacation ownership and assistance on complaint redressal, if any.

AIRDA is an affiliated member of the American Resort Developers Association.

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