Monday 3 October 2011

ITB-Asia 2011 Responsible Tourism events

ITB Asia Responsible Tourism Event and Networking powered by ITB Asia

Venue: Level 6, 601/F27
Date: 21 October, 2011
Time: 1100 – 1300 hrs

Organized in co-operation with
The Blue Yonder and Wild Asia.

The Responsible Tourism event will feature experts and practitioners in responsible tourism who will share their insights and know how for implementing sustainable best practices within your organization.

· How to engage and motivate staff to support your sustainability strategy

o Arnfinn Oines – Responsible Conscience, Six Senses Resorts and Spas

· Making the shift towards responsible tourism

o Zhang Mei, Founder Wild China

· Voluntourism: Are we helping or harming local communities?

o Gopinath Parayil – Concern Without Borders

The event will also feature three Inspiring Responsible Tourism stories in the region and networking sessions. Last date for applying is 5th OCT 2011. More details here

RT Clinics at the ITB Asia Responsible Tourism Center 2011

Organized in co-operation with The Blue Yonder and Wild Asia

Venue: Level 6, 602/T15

The Responsible Tourism Centre at ITB Asia is introducing a new engagement activity for trade show participants to speak with experts in sustainable tourism. The clinics combine RT experts from various fields including sustainable architecture, digital marketing and tourism management. Make an appointment for a discussion with them at the Responsible Tourism Centre booth.

E-mail contact: or

Clinic 1: How to choose sustainable tourism partners in Asia
Expert: Dr. Tran Trong Kien, Founder and CEO, Buffalo Tours
Date: 19 October, 2011 (Wednesday)
Time: 1400 - 1500 hrs

Clinic 2: Social media in tourism marketing
Expert: Eric Lewanavanua, Business Tourism Manager, South African Tourism
Date: 20 October, 2011 (Thursday)
Time: 1000 - 1100 hrs

Clinic 3: Sustainable architecture
Expert: Ian Hall, founder of Arkitrek
Date: 20 October, 2011 (Thursday)
Time: 1400 - 1500 hrs

Un(t)ravel: A unique get together in Bangalore on Responsible Tourism

It was a balmy Saturday morning in Bangalore, the earth fresh and brown from the rains of last night. Jaaga (meaning space), with its shape shifting grid structures that could be put together in a myriad of interesting patterns and ways seemed like an appropriate venue to talk about ‘untravelling.’ ‘Come discover travel that is out-of-the-box, exciting and responsible’, our invite had boldly claimed. Would the traveler bite?

Untravel was a day long experimental, perhaps a first of its kind public event where we hoped to bring together travelers, travel entrepreneurs, students and responsible travel companies, to talk about making a difference while having a great trip.

The Blue Yonder opened the day by leading a hall filled with curious people through stories of how travellers could contribute to positive change in the places they visit. TBY spoke about recreating the sound of music along the banks of the Nila, engendering sustainable livelihoods through local homestays, building a local school for traditional music, and nurturing the world’s largest palliative care unit in Kerala run mostly by volunteering. The audience was enthralled right through - glued to their seats and eyes widening regularly through the talk with all the possibilities being laid out in front of them.

Informal stands like these gave opportunities for travellers to interact with innovative companies.

An open discussion came up next on all that makes up responsible travel. Jose Ramapuram of Orange County talked about a policy on responsible travel being an essential guide to their functioning. They believe strongly in stewardship and the idea that business should be for the ultimate good of all, but going the responsible way actually drove their costs down and made perfect business sense, he said. Pradeep from the ANT, an NGO working with weavers and craftsmen in the North East, spoke about craft creating an interest in their customers to explore places and people beyond the regular tourist circuit and sustain livelihoods for the locals in turn.

Mainstream travellers respond to stories that they can connect with, visceral experiences that go beyond the regular, said Prateek of mygola, a travel planning company. People are increasingly looking for the offbeat stuff, ways to immerse themselves in the places they visit, and therein lies the case for attracting them towards travel that is kind, he said. Sridhar Pabisetty of Tour of Nilgiris spoke about reaching out to the community in the places they visit - riders in their annual endurance cycling event help forest dwellers in Nilgiris, firm that they are the only ones who could preserve the bio-diversity of the region. Kalyan Akkipedi who was hitchhiking across the country to understand the poor in India said a traveler must first go outside his comfort zone. Resilience, he said, brought in the greatest change.

Post all the chicken soup for the travelling soul, the audience thronged the stalls to interact with travel providers, swap stories, and learn more. Workshops on committing a travel memory to drawing, being a healthy traveler, photographing on the move, and bicycling to work, were a source of much fun and excitement.

So, where can I go tomorrow? We wound up with a baithak inviting budding offbeat travel entrepreneurs to discuss their stories. People spoke passionately about a whole load of things – from going on trips to rescue wildlife to organic farming and backyard history tours.

Would we be able to attract a happy-to-travel yet spoilt-for-choice crowd to come see the world through a new lens? A world hidden away from swanky resorts and to-the-minute tours, and thriving on first principles – lending a hand to your host community, respecting the place you visit, leaving no footprints or simply racing the wind on pedal. For all of us at The Alternative, the day revealed to us that a lot of people out there were indeed interested and happy to be involved, it is just that we were probably trying to discover each other through some means.

Most people came by and talked about how it was refreshing not just to listen to a new perspective, but meet so many like-minded folks working on responsible travel. Some were thrilled about having so much choice in planning their next trip and contributing to social good, while others were enthused about coming back for more such sessions to connect.

The responsible travel story seems to be finding greater resonance with mainstream travellers. People are waking up to the fact that they need to help and now and in some sense they owe it to the people and places they leave behind. To everyone we meet these days, we say “Hop on board the Untravel bus. May we find inspiration.”

Aarti Mohan - Editor of The Alternative

Join the Untravel Facebook group to be a part of all the conversations, events and happenings around responsible tourism. Help us increase this tribe of untravellers!

Stories, tips, photos and more from travelers here:

Sunday 2 October 2011

Indian youth gets an opportunity to be the change

Creating better places for people to live:
For nearly a hundred years, the picture one had of India was that of a predominantly rural country with a dominant agrarian economy. For the first time in as many years, that picture seems to be rapidly undergoing a change, for India’s urban population has added 91 million people more than the 2001 census- than the rural population. And Indian cities are feeling the heat- literally and figuratively. They are increasingly facing water shortages, open defacation is the highest in the world, putting the entire sanitation mechanism under severe threat, slums are on the rise, and cities that have high instances of water and air pollution, and increasingly facing more instances of road rage, conflicts and tensions than ever before.

India’s rapid urbanisation has not just resulted in significant challenges, it throws up a set of valuable opportunities as well– there are few certain answers before any of us. This unprecedented urban growth could help us alleviate poverty and move towards a more sustainable and equitable future, that is not just dependent on agriculture. However, it could also overwhelm our cities and exacerbate inequality. Can we address this before its too late?

There is one such organization that has decided to be the change agent- The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), a proposed University dealing specifically with issues related to urbanization and trying to find solutions that are holistic and interdisciplinary. The aim is to generate professionals who will be able to reshape and redesign India’s urban imprint with their creative, sustainable, interdisciplinary approach to local issues. One of its initiatives is San-kranti - a youth platform that invites India’s young to join a unique community of change-makers.

The aim of this challenge is to identify an issue that impacts urban India, explain the significance of that issue in the larger context of the city or town and identify the most sustainable and holistic solution for it. The amazing thing is that in over 2 months of launch of this initiative, over a 100 teams have registered for participating in this initiative. Some eminent people, experts in their own right in different disciplines have engaged as mentors for these teams. The 20 best teams will go on to participate in the India Urban Conference in Mysore, a joint initiative by IIHS, Janaagraha and the School of South Asian studies at Yale University.

The India Urban Conference (IUC) is a series of events designed to raise the salience of urban challenges and opportunities in the ongoing debate on India's development. It creates a wide multi-stakeholder and cross-regional platform that situates India's urban transformation in the context of current governance, economic, socio-political, ecological and cultural trajectories and consequent choices of development pathways. The IUC seeks to create an open-frame 'space' for a multi-level dialogue on applied research to inform policy, practice and civil society action.

It is no wonder that I am filled with new hope that this collective thinking and action will transform urban India in the coming years!

Meena Vaidyanathan

(The author is a partner at niiti consulting a mentor for participating students on the san-kranti platform)

Follow San-kranti on facebook and twitter