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We recognise that the pandemic is far from over, and as the World Health Organization rightly reminds us, we are not safe until we are all safe. It will take many more months before travel and holiday volumes recover to whatever the "new normal" will be. We are aware that many businesses and organisations in the travel and tourism sector have worked hard to sustain their employees and the communities in which they operate with really positive impacts around the world. Many of these efforts have involved others in their supply chain and consumers. We would like to recognise and draw attention to those who have successfully helped others, employees and neighbours alike, to weather the storm.
Gold: India Hotels Company (IHCL)
With over 200 hotels, IHCL commits to core values of Trust of all stakeholders, Awareness of the needs of their ecosystem and Joy at heart. Continuing IHCLs century-old legacy, Paathya forges a journey focused on Environmental Stewardship, Social Responsibility, Excellence in Governance, Preserving Heritage, Value Chain Transformation, and Sustainable Growth. Through the Taj Public Service Welfare Trust during the Covid crisis, Taj delivered through its 'Meals to Smiles' programme simple and nutritious meals in collaboration with the local Government authorities for distribution across multiple hospitals throughout lockdown. They also fed stranded migrant workers at the request of local authorities in Mumbai. IHCL provided 4.5 million meals in 17 cities and 38 hospitals. Through their welfare trust, the Taj group also supported distressed hospitality workers responding to 7000 applications with a budget of more than Rs 14.25 Crores. Over 70,000 room nights were made available for health care staff and 30 state-of-the-art Ventilators and PPE kits were donated to Covid 19 hospitals.
Silver: Kerala Voyages for Nature to Homes
During the pandemic, Keralavoyages launched Nature to Homes, an online store that enables consumers to purchase spices, tea, soap, honey, cosmetics, pickles, dried buffalo meat, rice, preserves from rural producers, Ayurveda essentials and a growing range of eco-friendly products. A joint venture between Keralavoyages and Ergo Consulting Nature to Homes extends the idea of "farm gate sales" common in Europe to rural communities in Kerala able through an internet platform to sell to consumers in urban areas. The producers and consumers both benefit, brought together virtually on an internet platform where stories can be told just as in the Village Life Experiences, run by Kerala's Responsible Tourism Mission, rural hosts sell experiences to guests in the analogue world.
Nature to Homes is an example of how the tourism industry can enable rural communities to benefit from sales to consumers when they are not present as tourists. There is scope for many more initiatives of this kind.
Destinations Building Back Better Post-Covid
In the Awards last year, we saw several destinations beginning to rethink the tourist volumes and market segments that will attract post-Covid and some who were considering demarketing. The apparently inexorable increase in visitor numbers has been halted by the pandemic. Many destinations have had a "breather". A reminder of what their place was like before the hordes arrived. An opportunity to rethink tourism and perhaps to decide to use tourism rather than be used by it.
Gold: Kerala Tourism
Kerala has long been identified as a leading Responsible Tourism destination, and they have been regularly recognised in these awards. To be recognised again, businesses and destinations need to have done substantially more or innovated. By March 2020 the RT Mission was forced to cancel all its bookings for the season. To the surprise of the judges, Kerala was able during the pandemic to continue to increase the number of units working with the Responsible Tourism Mission by 10% from 21,525 to 23,786. They achieved this by innovating. Storytelling videos to ensure that Kerala remained front of mind with travellers; and 1,000 work-from-home videos featuring artists and craftspeople. The Responsible Tourism Mission linked the Experience Ethnic Cuisine units to Covid Relief Camps and first-line treatment centres and converted them to takeaways sales outlets; and created an online sales platform. The Responsible Tourism Mission has continued to develop their experiential tourism products, developed new sources of income for the units and provided counselling and support for those struggling with the impact of Covid.
One to Watch: UT Administration of DNH & DD
The judges were pleased to see the development, landscaping and beautification of the 3.5km seafront from Moti Daman Jetty to Jampore, which includes measures to avoid coastal erosion. This initiative was started during Covid and is designed to "build back better." To create economic benefit for local communities, the UT administration has ensured the development of Cafes, aTent City and Water Sports activities on the Ramsetu Seafront. For community benefit, UT has developed an open gym and several pocket gardens along the seafront so that kids can spend time playing freely. Future plans include an aviary, Jampore Ghat and toilet blocks on Jampore Beach.
The judges recognise this is an important new initiative that they hope will be replicated elsewhere. The judges hope to see an application again in a year or two when the initiative is complete.
One to Watch: Naggar, CivicHelp And Progress Foundation
CivicHelp and Progress Foundation (CHAP) is a Delhi-based team of social entrepreneurs working with communities in and around Kullu District. CHAP worked with the five Gram Panchayats, women- self-help groups and other district administration officials in a cluster of ten villages to organise a two-day festival. Shobla Bana - Naggar Fest was used to raise awareness of the impact of Covid and the need to promote Responsible Tourism in Naggar - a town near Kullu/Manali in Himachal Pradesh. More than 200 participants, mostly children and women, from 15 villages, took part in Shobla Bana, and more than 1000 visitors attended. At Chap Homestay Lab, located on the banks of river Beas, they have begun to develop a Homestay School providing training to underprivileged women in hospitality skills while tourists get an exclusive rural experience of travel and stay. The weaving/knitting/crochet competition held during Shobla Bana had around 60 women participants showcase their talent and speed. Five girls won refurbished laptops in the "win a laptop challenge". Their make festivals plastic-free initiative has resulted in enquiries from seven different states of India.
The judges recognised the innovative approach being taken by CHAP and the influence that they are beginning to have on others, we look forward to seeing a further application when the impact of this new initiative is established.
We travel to experience other cultures, communities, and places. If everywhere was the same, why travel? Though we seek diversity through travel, we've noticed that diversity is not always reflected in the industry that helps others have such experiences. Diversity is a broad term: "identities include, but are not limited to, ability, age, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, immigration status, intellectual differences, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation." We do not expect to find an organisation that has made demonstrable progress on all of these in the last few years. For our industry, it is about who we employ at various levels, who we market to, the way we present the destinations we sell, the range of experiences we promote, and the stories we tell.
This year all of the entries recognised are focused on benefiting women as beneficiaries and travellers. This reflects the narrow range of entries which we received.
Gold: Kerala Tourism
The judges recognise that Kerala has successfully used a product diversification approach to engage a broader range of community members in tourism. Through their Agri Tourism Training initiative, they have attracted young people into farming, training one batch of 731 applicants and the second one of 665, far exceeding their expectations of a total of 500. These new tours have attracted both domestic and international visitors and generated Rs 52 lakhs in 2020-21 and Rs 49 lakhs in the first three months of 2022-23. Their Experience Ethnic/Local Cuisine Network brought women into tourism and generated significant income for them with very little or no investment. There are 23,786 individual/group units, out of which 16,660 women-owned /leading units registered with the Responsible Tourism Mission: in units making cloth bags, paper bags, handicrafts, farming, artists, artisans, RT chauffeurs, community tour leaders, farm visit units, home stays, farm stays, tended accommodation units, ethnic cuisine units.
Gold: Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board
We recognised Madhya Pradesh's Safe Tourism Destinations for Women initiative in 2021, noting that: "The MPTB plans to develop women-friendly tourism destinations by adopting various means to ensure women's safety through community participation, raising public awareness, increasing the numbers of women working in tourism destinations as shopkeepers, guides, taxi and cab driver, naturalists and others. The judges hope to see further entries as this exciting initiative bears fruit." We were delighted to see that evidence this year. This initiative demonstrates what can be achieved when the Tourism Board, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Women and Child Development, UN Women will work together to provide a gender-sensitive tourism environment in the state. This is the first tourism project sanctioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI, under the Nirbhaya Scheme. The objectives of the project are to provide a safe, secure women-friendly environment in and around tourist destinations; to enhance women's confidence to visit destinations without any fear for their safety; to use spatial design to create women-friendly spaces; to provide self-defence training for women and girls; and create job opportunities for women through employment and self-employment activities in tourist destinations.
Silver LetsGoForACamp Travel and Innovation LLP
LetsGoForACamp was created to help people discover themselves through travel to "offbeat locations filled with scenic beauty." The judges recognised the simplicity and efficacy of their approach to enabling women to travel to remote and wild areas, sharing the experience with other women. This mode of travel enables women to travel safely and comfortably, no longer restricted to travelling only with their family. Their Srishti wing opened the doors to an exciting world of adventures and travelling for those women who love travelling but are prevented from doing so by social/ and family pressures and the fear of travelling alone. "Srishti not only helped women to travel but also focussed on boosting the confidence of women and building a community of women travellers."
The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the amount of single-use plastic, adding to the plastic waste crisis. Plastic waste is now entering the food chain of other species as well as ours. Once plastic enters watercourses, it ends in gyros of garbage in the oceans, on beaches and in the stomachs of fish we then eat. The industry needs to do more to reduce its use of single-use plastics and take responsibility and work with local communities and their governments to capture waste plastic with nets and floating barriers and upcycle it for cobbles, furniture and crafts.
Gold: Kerala Tourism
Kerala Tourism launched its Plastic Free Tourism campaign in 2019, first targeting accommodation providers, urging them to avoid the use of single-use plastic. Kerala Tourism secured the support of travel trade partners and local government units. The Responsible Tourism Mission worked with local communities to develop alternatives to plastic: paper and cloth bags, paper, bamboo and papaya stem straws and worked closely with Thooshan, promoting edible plates and drinking straws. The Responsible Tourism Mission demonstrates the value of creating an organisation which can operate at scale. 20,008 Responsible Tourism Mission units (out of 23,786) are already avoiding single-use plastics, and 552 accommodation units have declared themselves plastic free. The campaign has created economic value. For example, Responsible Tourism Mission units made the 25,000 cloth bags distributed to industry partners to encourage their use.
Gold: Vir Naturals
Manufacturing in Ernakulam, Kerala Vir Naturals makes a range of biodegradable tableware. An alternative to plastic, the Thooshan range of tableware is made from wheat bran. The Thooshan range is 100% biodegradable and affordable, has a long shelf life, and is resistant to fungus and bacteria. It can safely be used in microwaves and can hold water for a while. The tableware can subsequently be used as feed for cattle, poultry and fish or as organic manure. As Anasuya Menon wrote in The Hindu: "What if your dinner plate has more dietary fibre than your meal? With 43 grams of fibre and 16 grams of protein, edible plates might just fill the gap in your diet."
Silver Pugdundee Safaris
The judges were impressed by the efforts made by Pugdundee Safaris to remove single-use plastics from six of their seven lodges. Pugdundee Safaris are a small company, but they have understood that they can achieve a great deal by taking plastic out of their supply chain. Their example should be widely replicated.
There is still a place for CSR1.0 and philanthropy, as is evident from last year's Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic category. However, by adapting the way they do business, accommodation providers and tour operators can create additional market opportunities for local communities in their supply chains and create opportunities to sell goods and services directly to tourists. This diversifies the local economy and enriches the destination in both senses, creating additional livelihoods for locals and a richer range of activities, food and drink, and craft and art products for tourists.
Destinations can assist these changes by, amongst other things, providing micro-finance, training and mentoring, creating marketplaces and performance spaces and providing marketing assistance.
Gold: Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board
The Department of Tourism in Madhya Pradesh has developed four homestay schemes that provide opportunities to house owners in urban and rural areas who are willing to accommodate domestic and international visitors in some portion of their houses. Madhya Pradesh is the first state to widen its homestay policy, and it now has 150 registered homestay enterprises.
This extended model of homestay tourism provides experiential tourism in rural, urban, heritage and nature circuits. The distinctive characteristic of every homestay unit, personalised services, peculiar theme or styled homestay, and knowledge of the local area is critical to the success of this model of tourism. A form of tourism that values the knowledge of the homestay owner as well as the room and food provided.
Silver Be The Local Tours and Travels
Be The Local was launched in 2010 by two young men from Dharavi, Asia's largest slum. In order to attend university, they needed to work. Through Be The Local, they sought to realise two objectives: to dispel the negative image of Dharavi and create part-time employment for students who could be trained to work as guides and earn sufficient part-time to study. They now have twenty guides offering authentic experiences of Dharavi and Mumbai. The judges were very impressed by this proven initiative providing income for students sufficient to enable them to study at university, countering misconceptions of the Dharavi slum and enhancing the guides' skills in ways useful in their future careers in IT companies, banking, pharmaceuticals and as full-time professional tour guides registered with Maharashtra tourism. This is a tried and tested model which should be replicated
One to Watch: Bayberry
Bayberry Adventures operates as part of the Dagdiya Foundation, providing adventure and experiential travel to Isoti Village, in a remote part of Uttarakhand. Their objective is to support, integrate & empower local communities to develop an ethical, ecologically responsible, socially sensitive & sustainable model of travelling in the hill tracts of Uttarakhand. Working with the women and youth of Isoti, they are creating economic opportunities through tourism and countering outward migration. As they explain to potential travellers, "By travelling to Isoti you shall be supplementing the meagre income of the residents and helping them fight migration." Some young people who migrated away from the village have returned, and the villagers' sense of place and self-esteem has risen. The judges were impressed by this initiative and pleased to see that numbers are increasing – we hope to see this initiative again in a year or two when it is more firmly established and the evidence of impact will be greater.
One to Watch: Extra Mile
The Extra Mile is a boutique travel company. It has been part of Pure Life Experiences since 2012. Like the other members of the group, they seek to provide inspiring travel experiences which can change the world by creating new relationships "that go beyond business." They operate in the luxury experiential space. Their first travellers went on the Pashima Trail in the summer of 2021; this limited edition tour will be limited to 48 travellers per year. They are attempting to link the Changpas (herders ) to the women working on the hand processing from Fiber to Fabric, to the designers and retailers with stories in Vogue and Conde Nast Traveler AND National Geographic Traveller. The judges were intrigued by this novel approach to creating value for communities through travel. We look forward to hearing more about this when the economic benefits are clearer.
One to Watch: Not on Map
NotOnMap is "a platform that provides rural, rustic experiences, we bridge the gap between urban and rural communities by encouraging a healthy dialogue that helps equate the cultural and economic gap between the two. We bring travellers to the doors of local homes, to the warm hospitality of local hosts and to the depth of the existential human essence found only in diverse cultural exchange." They are committed to enabling people to travel with impact, a socially driven initiative to assist in generating alternative livelihoods and reduce out-migration creating "a bridge between travellers looking for authentic cultural exploration and villagers who can provide the same but do not have the right kind of knowledge and exposure." This is a very ambitious programme launched in 2018, the judges look forward to seeing it again in a year or two when there is more detailed evidence of its impact.
Access for the Differently-Abled: as Travellers, Employees and Holidaymakers
One of the aspirations of Responsible Tourism is to enable everyone to participate in tourism, whether as a traveller, holidaymaker or employee. The differently-abled are often identified as a wealthy market segment, but many are not. Disability excludes many from taking a holiday often for multiple reasons, including cost. For the travel and tourism industry to be fully inclusive and enable families to travel together, it needs to ensure access for those with a range of disabilities and enhance their experience. Too often excluded from employment in our industry, the differently-abled have skills to offer.
Gold: Lemon Tree Hotels Diversity and Inclusion Initiative
Launched in 2004 Lemon Tree Hotels is now India's third largest hotel group with 85 hotels in 52 destinations and is still growing. Lemon Tree Hotels is committed to providing equal opportunities and actively recruits the differently abled, determined that 'Opportunity Deprived Individuals' (ODIs) should have the same opportunities as others to achieve their potential. ODIs employed by Lemon Tree include speech and hearing impaired, orthopedically handicapped, acid survivors, those with Downs Syndrome and Autism and the economically and socially marginalised: people from below the poverty line, widowed or abandoned, battered, destitute or divorced women, and transgender people. The entire equal opportunities programme is funded from within the company.
The initiative began in 2007. By March 2022 over 13% of their employees are Indians who are opportunity deprived in one of these ways. Initially, those with disabilities were employed in roles with little direct contact with guests. However, they have developed standard operating procedures and training modules so that they are now able to work in areas where there is direct contact with guests, creating a positive experience for the differently abled employees and guests alike. All employees are encouraged to learn Indian Sign Language to create an inclusive working environment.
Over the last 15 years, over 3000 ODIs have trained at Lemon Tree Hotels and many continue to work for the group. Lemon Tree Hotels sees two primary direct benefits from its inclusive employment strategy: enhanced employee satisfaction and engagement; and "growing customer delight". Not surprisingly, many businesses from other sectors have engaged with them to learn from their experience. More hospitality businesses should too.
Silver Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board
Madhya Pradesh has recognised that the differently-abled and older persons are a growing segment of travel. In order to meet the needs of these travellers, Madhya Pradesh has initiated an Accessible Tourism, the Humsafar Project, undertaken with Arushi a not-for-profit working with and for people with disabilities. The objectives of this project are to sensitise and conduct capacity building, conduct awareness programmes for staff, enhance the proportion of accessible government buildings, and ensure transportation system accessibility and Information and communication. Accessibility audits have been completed at 30 tourist sites at Mandu, Maheshwar, Omkareshwar and Dhar, including MPT Hotels and monuments, to determine the barriers for differently-abled people, such as whether parking spaces are available or not; ramps/railing for wheelchair users; accessible toilet; washroom; drinking water facilities; pathways; lift facilities. MPTB organised behavioural change training for 200 MPT hotels and monuments staff to sensitise them to the unique problems of tourists with reduced mobility and to ensure that they understand why these needs must be addressed.
Increasing Tourism's Contribution to Natural Heritage and Biodiversity
Charismatic wildlife is a big draw for many travellers, and the enjoyment of natural heritage forms at least part of many trips, many have wildlife as the core attraction. Tourists want to see the charismatic megafauna which can no longer be seen, in the wild, in their home country. National parks and wildlife areas with elephants, lions, tigers and bears, exist only where local communities bear the opportunity costs of not farming the land or extracting resources from it.
Rarely do visitors contribute enough to cover the full costs of their enjoyment of the wildlife, with local communities excluded from the reserve seeing it only when their crops are damaged. The activities of tourists as photo safaris "hunt" charismatic megafauna too often disturb the hunting, mating, eating and breeding of wildlife.
We are looking to recognise businesses and destinations, parks and conserved areas, where tourism is "net positive" investing in the natural heritage, ensuring that local communities benefit, facilitating visits to see the wildlife for local children or adults, and where drivers and guides are effectively minimising wildlife disturbance.
Gold: Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board
Madla village has a population of 2,500 adjacent to Panna National Park, it has an entrance gate to the park on the outskirts of the village. Panna was once a royal hunting ground. It is now home to five species of wild cat including the Bengal tiger. Panna is known for having some of the best wildlife species in India. Khajuraho the UNESCO World Heritage Site is only 20 kms away. Madla Village was heavily impacted by tourism, but the community saw little benefit. Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board has helped the community develop homestays, empowering village women. Groups of musicians, singers, and dancers have been encouraged to show local folk music and dance and earn from the visitors to the village. Similarly, art and handicraft production has been encouraged. Tourism has been developed as an alternative livelihood option increasing confidence and generating a sense of pride towards their culture, traditions, nature, heritage, flora and fauna, all resources available within the vicinity.
Silver Blackberry Hills, Munnar Nature Resort and Spa
Blackberry Hills, Munnar is a luxury resort established in 2004 with the intent of making a contribution to conserving the rich biodiversity of the High Ranges Hills of Munnar in the Western Ghats. It is an 8.5 acre property with 16 rooms with more than 50 % left as a forest. Only natural agricultural techniques are used to conserve endemic plants and animals. Guests are encouraged to walk in the undisturbed Shola forest patch. Blackberry Hills, Munnar is the only property in Munnar with a flagship conservation species, a critically endangered frog called the Anaimalai Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pseudomalabaricus). They have constructed two ponds (one of them in collaboration with Wildlife Trust of India) on the property to create microhabitats conducive to the conservation of the flying frog.
Silver Baswant Honey Bee Park, Maharastra
Green Zone Agrochem has established a Honey Bee Park, unique in India, at Pimpalgaon Baswant, Nashik, where they provide full awareness, training, demonstrations, and honey tasting for visitors. In short, they have created a major tourist attraction centred on their Baswant Bee Training Center set up to conduct demonstration-based training programs to promote beekeeping as a farm enterprise. For visitors, they have added a selfie point, apiary, honey bee village, museum, painting gallery, cafe, food court and a miniature village. At Dorsata Point, there is a demonstration of traditional and modern techniques for hunting dorsata honey bee colonies. The training and visitor centres are designed to contribute to the conservation of the honey bee. Since 2019, they have trained more than 7500 people, and more than 200 Honeybee colonies have been established by farmers & local communities as businesses, and more than 20,000 visitors have visited this park. Including more than 100 school & college trips.
Conserving Water and Improving Water Security and Supply for Neighbours
When people travel, they often use more water than they do at home, partly as a consequence of being at leisure in accommodation designed to encourage indulgence and partly because they are unaware of the local supply issues, a problem compounded by people holidaying in drier more arid areas.
The judges are looking for examples of businesses and destinations which are reducing water consumption per guest, recycling and reusing greywater, businesses providing potable water for neighbours, and destinations raising awareness of water scarcity, measuring consumption by the sector or managing reduction.
Gold: Water Street, Kerala
The Responsible Tourism Mission is developing Water Streets, (Backwater Street, Canal Street, River Street) in nine destinations. All three kinds have been developed at Maravanthuruthu and they are now being rolled out to other destinations. Most of the potential Water Streets were ugly due to waste disposal and water hyacinth, so the process began with cleaning and deepening the water bodies. Tourism activities on the Water Streets include kayaking, rowing boat trips, shikkara (light flat-bottomed boats) trips, and rowing markets of various products. Some 110 clusters, each of forty families, have been formed to benefit from water-based tourism and to ensure that the water streets once cleaned, are kept clean.
The Kerala Responsible Tourism Mission has demonstrated that tourism can protect water bodies with the strong involvement of the community, and if the community can find a livelihood from the water street they will protect the water body. At Maravanthuruthu, a 3 to 4 km stretch of 18 Canals, three rivers and a Backwater body were all rejuvenated. This initiative helped to recharge the ponds and wells of the area and now the water can be used for drinking and food processing. Future plans include country boat trips, rowing and mechanised shikkara trips, houseboats, floating restaurants, floating Kootthambalam (theatres). Floating markets, traditional and modern fishing experiences and lifesaving teams.
Silver Haritika, UP & MP
Haritika aims to secure a positive change in the quality of life of the poor people of the Bundelkhand region of UP and MP. One of Haritika's cornerstone projects is integrated water resource management to create climate-resilient tourism villages. Bundelkhand is an acute water-scarce area, water conservation is of utmost importance there. With the support and guidance of the MP Tourism Board Haritika has focused on Water Conservation through three approaches: (i) use of Grey Water in a sustainable & smart way: to grow vegetables and fruit; (ii) the promotion of tourism villages using water wisely and (iii) creating awareness among tourists, visitors and residents in neighbouring villages about the importance of water conservation.
Contributing to Cultural Heritage
Tourism can contribute to the maintenance of living and built cultural heritage creating additional revenue through entrance fees, encouraging donations from visitors, or encouraging investment in heritage to attract tourists and day visitors. But it is not just about financial resources. The interest of visitors in local heritage can remind communities of the value of their built and living heritage and ensure that it is valued and conserved for future generations. Through the purchase of locally produced art and craft, tourists can make a significant contribution to maintain a thriving and developing culture from painting to wood carving and from fine art to agriculture.
The judges are looking for entries from businesses museums, galleries or destinations where tourism is making a positive contribution to the conservation and development of built, exhibited or living cultural heritage or where negative impacts are managed and reduced, destinations where tourism is making a positive contribution.
Gold: Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh has the highest population of tribals in all the states of India. Tourists are attracted to experience the lifestyle of tribal communities and their love and respect for nature, their traditional agricultural practices and the food they produce. In the villages of Khokhara and Thadipathar, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board has begun to work with the forest-dwelling Gond and Baiga Tribes to maintain living cultural heritage: community-led and community-driven tourism activities such as nature walks, boating, storytelling, identifying the medicinal plants, local flora and fauna etc., are provided to the tourist village visits, local cuisines, and cultural activities, music dance, local art and craft are arranged for the tourist. The locals with the help of the Gram Sudhar Samiti have prepared their itinerary. They have been supported on safety, sanitation and infrastructure development. Waste management by the village is managed by the community institution and implementation is through the community.
Silver Indian Hotels
IHCL follows the Tata Group's principle of improving the quality of life of communities in which the business operates. Together, IHCL and UNESCO offer experiential tours for travellers at various IHCL hotels, so that they can experience the living heritage of the country better. The first phase includes visits to local communities practising art forms like Patachitra - a traditional scroll painting technique in West Bengal, Ganga Aarti - the prayer ceremony at Dasashwamedh Ghat at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, as well as Kalbelia performances, blue pottery making, Bagru hand block printing, and the Terracotta art of Molela. Visitors are able to experience the unique tribal life of the Bishnoi village in Rajasthan and Mysuru Dasara and Janpadaloka in Karnataka.
The objective is that when guests visit an IHCL hotel, they are offered a chance to discover at least one cultural practice they have probably never witnessed before. Rather than bringing a dance troupe to our hotel, we will bring the visitors to the practitioners of that art form - in the midst of their community. They are able to see their pride and their uniqueness, and they will see the incredible diversity of intangible India.
IHCL has engaged with the weavers to skill and support their community. Taj develops and sources silk sarees from the weavers, worn as uniforms by front-line associates at its hotels. The company recently initiated a training programme for women in partnership increasing entrepreneurship opportunities for women.