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Decoding Destination Social Responsibility

Sustainability is required in all the domains of life and tourism is a big part of it. It is time to take an oath by all and act accordingly.

Dr. Mohit Sharma, August 12, 2022


What is our role as a tourist at a certain destination? We get exposure, and education about culture, history, and heritage and we pay a certain package to that but is that all? The money we pay can never compensate for the amount of trash we leave and exploit the destination in the name of leisure unless we take some conscious efforts to be socially responsible to that destination as we are for our home. This is Destination Social Responsibility (DSR).

Human vs nature is a much-advocated phenomenon. Nature maintains all its responsibility for humans. How about the second party? We often go to certain destinations and enjoy the heritage, culture, environment, and different aspects notable to that place. However, have we ever noticed the aftereffects of our visit? We got many things from nature, that too in free but how do we pay it back? What is that part which is devoted to us?

We talk about sustainability and there are three pillars associated with it i.e., social, economic, and environmental. Here, I would like to propose one additional component which is often neglected, that is philosophy.

To illustrate it better, let me tell you about a friend of mine who is acting as a wildlife protector for the last 35 years. Of course, we can think of famous names such as Leonardo DiCaprio who is also working as an activist for the conservation of the environment. But this friend of mine has believed in and retained this philosophy and ethics for such a long tenure. Now, this guy is so deep into his philosophy that he is able to convince a whole community of people to work for the noble cause of protecting nature which is not an easy task. If you offer incentives to the people to do something then things work easily, but simply for ethical purposes, if you are asking people to be with you and follow some principles, then it is quite difficult.

Now, let’s consider for example, in an area with the efforts of so many years which is protected as a sanctuary and local people are engaged in its protection. If there is some urgency in any family, suppose children in the family are sick and there is no money for treatment, then also poor household will still not think of cutting the tree and selling them in the market just to earn quick money to save the situation. As a local, they can easily do that, and nothing can stop them but they are making this noble choice. How and why? What is that thing which is acting as a force within to stop them from distress sale and choosing to stick to the larger philosophy? This is how change happens, some thoughts go really deep with us that we tend to carry them over a period of time. This is how revolution for a noble cause comes. This is how we can retain the currently available sources wisely and talk about the future of sustainability.

Sustainability is required in all the domains of life and as tourism is an essential part of life, it cannot remain out of the circle of anyone. One just cannot say, it is none of my business! We travel from point A to point B; it could be 10 km or 10,000 km across various locations and for various purposes. We want to enjoy the beauty and treasures of this universe. We go somewhere and take with us a travel pack, eatables water bottles, etc. for our needs and sometimes extra pleasure, but do we take the trash back with us? None! The way tourist locations are exploited essentially through travel, it is high time to think of our responsibility to the destination by each travelling person. We cannot ignore our social responsibility towards the destination we travel to. Awareness about Destination Social Responsibility is the need of the hour and is a larger perspective than just travelling to a sustainable destination. It is about being immersive with the concept of sustainability of the place and contributing our bit. More we talk about DSR, people will be aware of it and will start understanding the role they will need to play.

For someone, travelling on the highway it is quite common to throw an empty water bottle, or snack packet out of the vehicle. But do we think where it would go? What is this basic thought to just throw things away in open spaces? When you see your family, your near and dear ones, you start caring for them. What about mother earth then? Do we expect aliens to come and serve our mother earth and we keep exploiting her?

The landmark Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism 2002 had stated that, “Convinced that it is primarily in the destinations, the places that tourists visit, where tourism enterprises conduct their business and where local communities and tourists and the tourism industry interact, that the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism need to be managed responsibly, to maximise positive impacts and minimise negative ones.”

When we are talking about DSR, we are not addressing only the tourists. It is the responsibility of all the stakeholders including governments, destination management companies, community leaders, hospitality companies, small to big restaurants, souvenir shops around tourist spots, amusement parks, travel agents and tour operators, tour guides, and all other service providers to make a destination sustainable. Undoubtedly, education plays a significant role in ethical capacity-building among the tourists as well the tour guides to illustrate the real facts and stories of that place so that tourists feel the place as their own. They can further develop a sense of ownership and with these feelings of love and affection, they can further take the oath towards the protection and maintenance of any place they visit. If there can be an oath for doctors to treat patients anywhere in need, why not for the visitors to take care of any place they visit?

Lastly, in the name of storytelling, a huge responsibility lies on the shoulder of those who call themselves travel media and social media influencers and claim to legitimately influence thousands and millions. They should understand that they are not going to secure a place in the history of travel and tourism by showing off how privileged they are in a breathtaking destination backdrop or a luxurious property which is out of reach for the most common people. The day they will understand these followers are not majorly fortunate enough and actually pay from their own pockets to travel, most of their broadcasts will be content-driven, informative and educative focusing on sustainability, responsible tourism, and social responsibility towards the destination at large.

Dr Mohit Sharma is the Assistant Professor at Dr Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University, Pusa, Samastipur, Bihar, India

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