In a quest to explore the unexplored, responsible and eco-conscious travellers today choose to explore every destination without proving to be a threat to the locality, community or habitat. You stay in your comfort zone of being a ‘tourist’ and look at the animals cordoned off by enclosures. Today, it’s more experiential. Darting from one ‘touristy’ landmark to the next, most of these touch-and-go visits offered only a cursory glimpse.

Such journeys encourage deep diving into a locality’s ecosystem, while also bolstering local habitats and economies. I don’t like staying in hotels because it’s too impersonal. She too believes that engaging with local communities fosters sustainable travel practices. But as travellers evolve, they hope to acquire a deeper insight and want their experiences to be more inclusive and sustainable. . It is local experiences that help you learn more about a place and make you concerned about its wellbeing as well,” she opines.Indian tourists have forever explored each destination with the spirit of conquerors, hopeful of ticking off a laundry-list of attractions. Rahul Kulkarni, owner of ‘Farm of Happiness’, an agro-eco tourism destination says, “Tourism norms in India are changing a lot. It helps one be open to new experiences in a responsible way and look at other aspects, including nature, in the same manner we look at our families.

This makes you compassionate about both — the environment and the communities that live there. In fact, they hope to contribute towards its conservation and proliferation. Travellers are interested in stepping into someone’s shoes to get an insight into their way of life.”Conscious travellers have thus altered their choice of destination to opt for nature-based, eco-friendly and community-based tourism.This thought is echoed by Shikha Bala, a photographer who confesses taking multiple trips in a year. Earlier, it used to be about sightseeing. As the growing breed of ‘conscious’ travellers opt for pristine, lush green destinations, or to connect with secluded communities, one wonders if it can negatively plastic injection molding equipment impact the area and the locals. There is always a wall between you and what you’re viewing and this makes you feel disconnected and uncompassionate towards anyone or anything other than yourself.” Akanksha recalls the shift she has seen in her own travel patterns, as the desire to establish a deeper connect with the environment and the people of the place takes precedence. Thirty-two-year-old Akanksha Pundir, an avid traveller with a travel enterprise of her own called ‘Grass on the Hill’, foregoes the jargon and describes sustainable tourism in a manner that’s relatable and inspiring. She says, “It’s all about empathy and compassion towards everyone and the places you visit.A traveller tries her hand at weaving using sustainably-produced yarnGreen with empathyIn 2018, the residents of Shimla made a plea to tourists to skip the much-favoured summer destination.

“Monetarily, it might benefit the locals, but I wonder if we’re exposing them to urbanised comforts and desires. The tourism industry is still unorganised in India, yet for many states, it is the biggest source of revenue. The hilly capital of Himachal Pradesh was facing an acute shortage of water and the peak tourist season was contributing to its woes.A city-based traveller enjoys a game with a local womanThe sustainable travel enthusiast says, “I was sick of the tick-mark kind of tourism, because, to use an analogy, it makes you feel like a visitor to a zoo. You will automatically become a vigilant traveller and see to it that your actions are sustainable.A traveller interacts with locals during one of Antara’s tripsThe World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”, while The Global Development Research Center, an independent non-profit think tank, describes it as being “an industry which attempts to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems”.

Depleting natural resources, excessive commercialisation, unmanageable waste output had dented the environment and these are serious concerns in most tourist spots across India. And that’s where sustainable tourism comes into the picture. You never get a chance to interact with the locals, except for maybe, the people working there.”Travellers collect mangoes on the Farm of Happiness. So, you must engage with nature and those who inhabit the place. “When I engage with people from the place, I develop a relationship with the place and this makes me want to be cautious about the way I dispose my garbage, refrain from using and throwing plastic items and opt for homestays rather than five-star properties