Solo Travel, Backpacking Trips, Family Vacations, Weekend Getaways, and more – the Travel Sector has seen exponential growth in recent times. And with this, grow our carbon footprint and the impact on the environment. Personally, I want to travel in style, but I also want my travel and stay to be environment friendly, and I try to make my trips as responsible as possible. No doubt, Eco-tourism is a concept that has become very popular amongst Travellers today, as even the most cynical travelers are aware of the need to go green, and the undeniable need to travel responsibly.
But what is Responsible Travel? Well, it simply means that when we travel, we do not harm the environment in any way. Responsible Tourism allows local communities to earn through tourism; it supports conservation; it supports local community initiatives, and it tries to limit the environmental impact of the vacation itself. It means that while traveling, we ensure the conservation of the environment, we help and preserve the local heritage and culture, and possibly, we also give back to the destination in as many ways as possible.
And I can say from experience that Responsible Travel is not only better for our planet, but it is also much more interesting and memorable.
Responsible tourism is also about the little-but-important things like Buying Local, No Littering, and following the Leave No Trace policy. All this, to make sure that we do not harm the planet we live on. This is why most responsible and aware travelers will choose a hotel that employs locals, a restaurant that offers local delicacies
and will support the local economy by doing so.
Responsible Travel can be easily followed for backpacking trips, budget traveling, homestays, and couch surfing. You can have a clear conscience and follow the rules of Responsible Tourism while doing this kind of trip because you are in a much better position to understand the impact of your travel when you design it yourself, or when the scope is not that big.
And your path should be responsible.
But what about the Luxury Traveller? Can you be responsible, ethical, and sustainable while staying at a luxury hotel, where re-using your bed linen or not getting unnecessary laundry done just isn’t enough?
Can you be responsible while flying first class to your destinations, staying at Luxury Hotels or Resorts, and holidaying at a private Yacht sailing in the ocean?
In short: Can Luxury Travel Be Responsible?
The answer is, yes. With the increase in the number of aware travelers and responsible travel trends, the need for big airlines and hotel conglomerates to be environmentally considerate is immense. In recent years, sustainability in the travel industry has progressed from a true niche consideration to an industry-wide priority. And it is good to see that a lot of them are adopting eco-friendly initiatives and embracing the concept of responsible and sustainable travel practices.
Whenever I opt for a luxury stay, I want it to be guilt-free. I want to be responsible for the planet, even during my stay at a five-star hotel. But an important thing to keep in mind here is that Responsible Luxury should NOT be a burden on the guest.
I mean, a luxury hotel cannot charge $300 for a day and not let the guest take a bubble bath because it is a wastage of water, right? I once stayed in a hotel in Singapore, that has an Only One Item For Laundry Per Day rule because they claimed: “We Are A Responsible Hotel!”. Not fair for the traveler who’s paying you a hefty sum, right? Strangely, I don’t see many people talking about it openly.
So, how does the Luxury Travel industry make a guest’s trip responsible in a way that it does not become the luxury traveler’s liability?
And to Travel Responsibly is the only way.
The answer is to find ways where high-end travelers are both pampered and give back to the community. Luxury travel is now increasingly defined by a rising commitment to people, the planet, and self-improvement as much as indulgence, pampering, and conspicuous consumption. High-End Hotels and Air Lines need to integrate sustainability into their offerings in exciting and inventive ways, I think, and need to continuously keep pushing boundaries.
I know that a lot of big luxury airlines have options of selecting carbon offsetting charges into ticket prices – like British Airways, New Zealand airlines Pacific Blue, Jetstar, and the world’s first carbon-neutral airline, Silverjet. It might not be the biggest step towards sustainable and responsible luxury, but it’s a start.
Hotels certainly have more opportunities to be sustainable, and a few big brands are already practicing it. The best example that comes to my mind is the ITC Maurya in Delhi, which is ITCs flagship property and is a LEED Platinum-certified hotel that recycles 100% of its used water. They have a water treatment plant right at the back of the property, where all the hotel’s used water is ozone polished and is then re-used in toilet flushes and other appropriate ways. The ozone polished water looks crystal clear and is completely odorless -such is the capability of this plant. This plant has helped reduce the total water consumption of the hotel by 50% as compared to a same-sized luxury hotel. Talk about responsible luxury done right!
A bottle of recycled water at the ITC Maurya’s STP Plant – clear and odour less.
The ITC Maurya also meets almost 58% of its electrical energy demand through renewable sources.
Along with a solid Responsible Luxury code, it comes as no surprise that ITC is the greenest luxury hotel chain in the world. You read it right, not just in India, but in the world. Makes you feel proud, right? And that’s the thing, a great degree of pride comes with knowing that all our travels, the budget trips and the luxury stays, can now be responsible, sustainable and have a minimum impact on the environment. You can read more about Responsible Luxury on the ITC Hotels Website.
So next time you fly with a luxury airline, do opt for their offsetting charges. It is going to increase your travel fare, but if you can afford the luxury airline, I’m assuming you can afford this as well. And, when you stay at a luxury hotel, do ask them about their sustainable practices and their responsible tourism policy. And if you are not satisfied, you should give your feedback on how they could change their ways and improve their responsible tourism practices. And do not just lecture, do your bit too! Every bit helps, and Responsible Tourism is a responsibility of the travelers as well, in terms of how aware we are and how we help.
Here’s to traveling more, and to being responsible!