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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 23, Dated 11 June 2011
CULTURE & SOCIETY  
COVER STORY

The clean escape

An antiseptic, isolated hotel room or under a canopy of trees — where would you rather spend your next vacation, asks Shonali Ghosal

Pretty site From construction to waste disposal, the hospitality industry has tremendous potential for green activities

SOME TOURISTS are a bit like Groucho Marx. They don’t want to go to a club that’ll have them. That is, they don’t want to go to a destination that’s been ruined by tourism. Countries dependent on tourism have long been in a similar quandary. How do you promote tourism without killing the reason that tourists come for? An unenlightened tourism policy can be rather slash and burn for the ecology. International tourism generated $919 billion in 2010 earnings, but according to the Climate Neutral Network, CO2 emissions generated directly from the tourism sector account for at least 5 percent of global CO2 emissions today. Suddenly, eco-tourism seems a neat alternative to killing the golden goose.

Jose Dominic, managing director of Kerala-based hotel chain CGH Earth, nicely defines eco-tourism: “The focus is still on the customer but he comes after the environment and the local community.” (Eco-hotels often avoid resource guzzlers like televisions, air conditioners and showers.) Eco-tourism is supposed to have grown 20 to 34 percent per year since 1990. Thomas C Thottathil of Cox & Kings estimates it to comprise 5 percent of Indian travel and growing annually at 7-8 percent in the country. Eco-holidays are especially popular in Uttarakhand, Kerala and Maharashtra.

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The hospitality industry has many avenues for green activities, from construction to waste disposal to energy consumption, but many pretenders, of course, use the tag as an excuse for over-priced organic food in air-conditioned banquet halls. Still, there are some respectable Indian eco-resorts: CGH Earth is gradually disconnecting from the state grid and converting its jungle resort Spice Village to solar power entirely by October. CGH uses elephant grass to make the roofs of some of their hotels. The grass waste is turned into biomass and paper.

Subramaniam Srilal, a young guest who stayed at Le Green Resorts & Hotel’s Belur Resort, says, “The resort is built in such a way that nothing in the environment is disturbed. Even the peacocks came in and out of the jungle freely. Staying there was worth paying more than I’d have in an ordinary resort.” And there lies the rub — do you really want to pay more to live in a shack made of bamboo sticks in the middle of a jungle? Or holiday in a houseboat in the Kerala backwaters? On the other hand, are you more likely to remember a holiday in a factory-assembled hotel and ordered room service or the one where you lived on a dive boat and swum into coral reefs?

Pretty site From construction to waste disposal, the hospitality industry has tremendous potential for green activities

Currently, room service is winning in India. The demand for eco-tourism is largely from foreign tourists, says Sandeep Sinha, chief manager of Bengaluru-based tour operator The Blue Yonder. “If you try selling eco-tourism in a typical holiday market, it won’t work. But the industry is growing,” he says. Ecohotel owners are just as optimistic that customers will become more ecologically conscious and the cost of installing eco-friendly hospitality will become cheaper. And organisations like The Blue Yonder pride themselves on going further than just eco-tourism — their ‘responsible tourism’ ensures employment for the local community.

Even if you’re less prone to guilt or simply refuse to forego the electrified life, you may prefer a resort that tries somewhere — good waste management, for instance. Or as CGH’s website notes primly, “There remains the guest who cannot live without dance parties and bright lights. To him, we say, we respect your needs.”

shonali@tehelka.com

The Big Green Rupee. Making it. Spending it
making
Green Business
The Carbon Bazaar
Green Energy
Green Fashion
Solar Energy
Lost in transmission
spending
Green Housing
Green Holidays
Green Weddings
Green Cars
Green Phones
Green Plan B
debating
The Economist: Pavan Sukhdev
The Minister: Jairam Ramesh
The Voter: Green Politics
The Activist: Ritwick Dutta

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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 23, Dated 11 June 2011
 

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