The world has gotten smaller. No place is too far, no corner too inaccessible. In the last decade, more people have travelled than ever before in human history – be it on business or for leisure. Naturally, the travel and tourism industry has become one of the largest sectors in the world. In 2014, the industry accounted for 105,408,000 jobs directly which is 3.6% of total global employment.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the sector is so significant that it has the potential to help countries reach millennial developmental goals such as gender equality, eradication of poverty and environmental sustainability.

Emerging economies like India are particularly benefitting from this growth. The Indian tourism and hospitality industry has grown so much that it contributed12.5 per cent in India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014-15. It was also the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country last year.

India’s push to encourage tourism

The country’s diverse cultural, ecological and architectural legacy has meant that Incredible India has become a key tourist destination in South Asia. However, in the last few years, the country has diversified what it has to offer – apart from spirituality and culture; adventure, medical, sports and even film tourism options have become increasingly popular with visitors. The number of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) has increased in the last few years and as many as 4.48 million tourists visited India between January–July 2015. Last year, the country introduced E-Visa to citizens of over 40 countries in an effort to encourage foreign visitors.

But despite this continual growth and endless potential in tourism, infrastructure in India remains largely inadequate and lacking. According to the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India the country currently has over 200,000 hotel rooms; yet requires more than 100,000 rooms to cater to the rising demand.

Sustainable growth is the future

It is impossible to provide for such a fast paced and ever growing need without depleting limited resources; unless, sustainable methods are adopted. The expanding hospitality industry is beginning to consider the impact of its growth, even as tourists today are well informed and eco-sensitive. Several countries are beginning to invest in sustainable tourism. The South American country of Costa Rica in recent years has showed the way with eco-tourism that encourages tourists, as well as conserves its pristine rainforests. Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST), a tourism evaluation system, has helped Costa Rica and other South American countries incentivise environmentally responsible practices in the industry.

A few hotels have among other efforts adopted ‘green roofs’ that lower temperatures and reduce maintenance costs in the long run. Properties in Costa Rica such as Arenas del Mar, Lapa Rios and Hotel Capitan Suzio have innovatively made use of Palmex, a synthetic thatch roof solution that is ecofriendly and durable.

These LEED certified Palmex hotel roofs are 100% recyclable and last over 20 years. Incorporating rainwater harvesting and solar power solutions are other ways of reducing carbon footprint in the industry.

If India’s burgeoning hotel industry takes measures to promote sustainable tourism, it will grow in ways that benefits all, including the environment.

The upcoming Food and Hospitality World (FHW) is an annual event brings together various representatives from the hospitality sector including those promoting sustainable options. Catch Palmex-India with their eco-friendly synthetic thatch roofs at the FHW, 21 to 23 January, 2016 in Mumbai.

Elizabeth Raj | Blogger- Arsha Consulting

Image courtesy: Firoze Edassery

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