In 1923, when George Mallory was asked by a New York Times reporter as to why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he answered in three words “Because it’s there”.
A simple yet significantly powerful answer. He didn’t say that he was the best climber or he wanted to be the first human on the summit. When he returned to Mt. Everest in 1924 on his third attempt, he experienced a fatal event as he failed to reach the highest mountain no man had reached yet. Climbing Mt. Everest was the ‘raison d’etre’ for George Mallory.
It is interesting to ponder upon why we do what we do. When Mallory attempted to climb Mt. Everest, his motivation was profound and it did not sound egocentric but curiosity driven. Perhaps it was his drive to climb the highest summit and “be on top of the world”. Fast forward 67 yrs from the first successful climb of Mt. Everest, over 5,000 climbers have successfully climbed Everest despite the fact that Everest still remains to be one of the deadliest climbs.
On the 2nd May 2019, New York Times covered a special article on over-tourism in Siberia’s Lake Baikal which was flooded by Chinese tourists. Needless to say, Venice and Barcelona were already hot spots for over-tourism in Europe.
On the 22nd May 2019, Everest saw the longest queue of climbers on their path to one of the hardest and highest summits. The queue was very similar to the line in front of Apple’s Fifth Avenue flagship store on the launch of iPhone 5. Needless to say, the queue raised eyebrows of the climbers and general people across the globe.
Now travelers are driven by a variety of motivations behind travelling, over a billion International Tourists travel for the reasons which may exceed Maslow’s motivation theory. As the saying goes ‘One billion Tourists create billion opportunities as well as billion challenges’.
As the Global tourism is brought to ground zero by the Pandemic, the industry is bleeding as it witnessed Over-Tourism to No-Tourism in a matter of weeks. International Tourism has stated that over 1.2 billion travelers crossing the borders created 10% of employment worldwide in 2019. Now the sector is forced to axe 121 million jobs losing US$ 3.4 trillion as per WTTC.
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We all know that humans are synonyms to endurance. We tend to adapt, overcome and survive. While the global Tourism industry strives to rebuild tourism, this is perhaps the right time to reflect, reinvent and reinforce and put the industry back on the track of sustainable development. No matter how terrible the financial and emotional dent the pandemic has on the Tourism industry, we must not rush to recover what was lost.
Whether it is Siberia or Venice, Everest region or Barcelona. A very cautious and pragmatic model of rebuilding tourism would be the need of the hour. Responsible practices by the travelers, hosts and all stakeholders will be of an equal importance to the tourism industry as the mask is to the pandemic. Those who love Traveling and the ones who earn the living from tourism should comprehend that only when nature heals, our industry will heal along with it.
The world has witnessed that both over-tourism and no-tourism is extremely painful. Hence, it is absolutely important to strike the right balance. The growth should be organic without turning a blind eye on the prescribed practices of Responsible tourism. Be it conservation of natural resources, protection of cultural heritage or endangered species, the leaders in the tourism industry and all stakeholders should come together and walk the talk.
The golden rules of 3Rs (Recycle, Recharge and Reuse) are to be continued. However, this pandemic has introduced a new R to our industry, R (Refuse) travelers who do not comply to the international guidelines which ensures their safety and the safety of every individual they surround themselves with.
As the destinations are relaxing the travel restrictions and the number of travelers increase, we need to be more mindful and aware of the fact that when asked why do you want to travel to any particular destination. The motivation should be more of a pull factor, the magnet of a destination, than the temptation of social media mastery to overcome a short lived FOMO.
When we drop out the ‘ego’, no one can stop us from embracing ‘eco’. If the drive to climb was worth risking his life for Mallory almost a century ago; then the drive to travel responsibly shall become the new normal for a billion plus travelers. Before taking a trip, please ask what’s your raison ‘d’etre behind travelling ?