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The 2021 India Responsible Tourism Awards report is here
Best Responsible Communications Campaign
We looked for an offline or digital communication campaign that encouraged travellers to stay at home, promoted a destination during the crisis, raised awareness about Covid-19 safety protocols, created awareness of the impact of the disruption on wildlife and habitat conservation rebuilt the trust of locals and travellers.
Overall Winner & Gold: Delhi Food Walks Delhi
Delhi Food Walks was launched in 2011 to enable tourists, and later students and corporate groups, to experience the best street food that Delhi offers. They subsequently branched out to curate food festivals. More recently, they have extended their programme of culinary walking tours beyond Delhi. When Covid-19 struck, they restructured all their walks and tours to ensure their guides and clients' health and safety. Their website lays out clearly the Standing Operating Protocols from the contactless booking system, through expectations of tour guides, guests and food vendors.
When Covid struck, Delhi Food Walks connected with those confined to their homes through a live Talk Series to acquaint and enrich people with India's vast and vibrant culinary and cultural heritage. As that series gained momentum, they launched their Stand With Street Food Vendors campaign and a Cook With Delhi Food Walks series. The presenter guides encouraged people to stay safe and practice physical distancing. Those from the health and fitness sectors shared tips and suggestions about leading a healthy lifestyle and tackling anxiety and depression. Their "motive was to cater to curiosity about culture, cuisine, history and heritage as they missed exploring it in the way prior to the pandemic." Simultaneously, telling them to stay safe at home because of the pandemic. They ran a parallel campaign to highlight the plight of the street food vendors battered by the pandemic, using their online presence to encourage people to continue to buy from the street vendors during the pandemic.
Silver: Booking.com Mumbai
The judges wanted to recognise the contribution which Booking.com made through their 'Rebuilding Together' campaign working with customers and accommodation partners to make it easier for everyone to make informed and safe decisions and navigate the travel-related issues arising from the pandemic. Their 'Travel Rediscovered' campaign promoted domestic travel. Promoting the notion that happiness cannot be measured in miles, they facilitated sharing stories about how travellers 'rediscovered travel' to local destinations. They explained: "we may not be able to take that distant trip we'd hoped for, but we'll still discover heaps of wonderful things on our doorstep that we never knew existed," and highlighted the trend for people travelling less far to stay away and staying longer in one accommodation. Their 'The World is Waiting For Us' campaign encourages travel dreams amongst travellers and encouraged people to maintain a wishlist for when they are able to travel again. .
Best Alternative Livelihood Initiative
For this category, we looked for any low cost, low carbon, digital or offline project to help local communities dependent on tourism pivot and find alternative sources of income, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gold: Kaarwan EduTravel LLP Mumbai, Maharastra
Kaarwan offers community learning opportunities for architects and other professionals qualified or aspiring – their strapline is making education accessible. They have created opportunities for them to work with communities, often in remote areas, to share skills and to learn about building techniques not covered in the formal curriculum. One of their referees wrote: "It amazed me how Kaarwan made travelling to a remote earthquake hit village with no electricity or internet to learn & build earthquake-resilient structures from the local communities so much fun. We didn't just learn how to build a resilient structure; we learnt how resilient communities are built." When Covid-19 struck, it was no longer possible to travel to these remote communities. They pivoted to offer the same learning opportunities online and enable their partners in remote areas to create a digital presence and earn from it. Kaarwan previously relied on organic growth through word-of-mouth recommendations. Their growth has tripled as they have moved online with, for example, their Instagram followers increasing five-fold. The local artisans gain a sense of pride and confidence from knowing, promoting and sharing their skills. Search Kaarwan on YouTube to see examples of skillshare and empowerment.
Silver: Aathun Jaipur, Rajasthan
Aathun is a not-for-profit initiative run by Rajasthan Studio to preserve, support, and empower the folk musicians of Rajasthan. There is a strong spiritual dimension to their searching out and showcasing of the folk artists, folk musicians and folk instrumentalists with their "soul-stirring" “pacifism, soulfulness and majesty”. Their blog carries stories about the folk artists of Rajasthan. The Covid-19 pandemic has badly hit the folk musicians of Rajasthan. Largely dependent on earnings from tourism, they are now jobless and struggling. Rajasthan Studio was established in 2019 to create a hub for cultural and artistic experiences in Rajasthan, connecting travellers and art enthusiasts with the master artists for a live, hands-on workshop at their everyday performance spaces. Aathun was launched in August 2020 as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic to enable folk musicians to earn from donations made during online performances and through sponsorship. The judges recognise that these are very new initiatives but they show great promise and could be replicated.
Silver: Pashoo Pakshee Mumbai, Maharastra
Pashoo Pakshee designs and retails craft products made by local, predominantly female, artisans from marginalised communities living in wildlife conflict areas. They work with Forest Departments and NGOs to develop skills and sustainable livelihood opportunities for tribal and underprivileged communities. Their objective is to reduce the dependence of these communities on the forest and enable them “to perceive wildlife conservation as an avenue for prosperity rather than a hindrance.” Their strapline is “Shop for a cause!” Crafters are paid a stipend and per finished item. Prior to the pandemic, Pashoo Pakshee sold in the traditional way around the wildlife zones in hotels, lodges, resorts, park gate gift shops, and tour operators. When Covid struck, and tourism stopped, they revamped the website and started to sell on Amazon and TheNestery.in. Dramatically increased online sales have enabled them to contribute to support the lives of the crafters they work with. They moved on to list the products of three other NGOs working with communities near wildlife conflict areas. A higher social media profile and online presence resulted in a large order from WWF India, enabling them to employ two female crafters on their payroll.
Best Covid-ready Innovation
For this category, we looked for sustainable, replicable innovations to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19 for travellers, staff and local communities as travel opens up.
Gold: Augtraveler Tech Start Software Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Delhi
Augtraveler has combined Augmented Reality (AR), Geo-Fencing and Multimedia to provide an enhanced experience through visitor interpretation presented by experts and opportunities for engagement with local communities at UNESCO World Heritage sites in India. This material is accessible on a mobile phone app. The judges were impressed by how the app draws users’ attention to engage with authentic cultural environments and purchase local arts, crafts. Local people are trained to add their local products and services on Augtraveler’s Curated Online Marketplace. The platform is open for other ‘authored experiences’ to be uploaded on Augtraveler following a vetting process published under the author's names or companies. Established in 2018 this app has in Covid pandemic facilitated individual self-guided touring and signposted opportunities to meet with and purchase from local people.
Gold: Mountain Homestays Ladakh
Working with 15 health centres in 30 villages across Ladakh Mountain Homestays has developed a destination and traveller health monitoring system, DEMETRA. The app enables travellers to receive current information on the health situation in the villages they are travelling to and through and enables them to health check their visitors. The app reports the basic health parameters such as heart rate, oxygen levels, blood pressure, respiration rate, and thermal body temperature in its pilot phase. The system is designed both for travellers and villagers. It compares the measured values against standard normals to providing a trigger-based mechanism for the person’s overall health status. DEMETRA enables the villagers to do a quick health check of the visitors coming to the village, ensuring that the community is safe from any potential pandemic risks. It also saves time and effort for the local community, who do not need to travel to health centres for data measurement. The health data is temporarily stored for 30 days and is then auto-deleted with strong controls to ensure the data is kept confidential. Mountain Homestays are also installing solar power in the health centres and establishing basic infrastructures such as vaccine coolers, ventilators, refrigerators and other essential equipment to provide immediate assistance for medical care.
Silver: Immersive Trails Kolkata, West Bengal
Immersive tours is an academic-run, research-oriented company that provides guided walking tours of Kolkata for locals and tourists to enable them to experience the city in a new way and connect with diverse local communities. They translate ethical research into immersive experiences and offer some local skills trains for the conservation of urban heritage. When Covid struck, they pivoted to provide free, immersive live virtual events on arts and culture on Facebook, for example, Looking Beyond the City and Researching Heritage. Their India’s Oldest Chinatown Walk was converted into a virtual product by combining walkthrough videos of the entire route; photographs of streets, structures, and architectural details; 360-degree photographs of some spaces, intersections, and buildings. Archival photographs, newspaper clippings, and documents are added into a single presentation and presented to a global audience. This enables travel, history, and culture enthusiasts, stuck at home and craving intellectual stimulation, to explore various facets of Bengal’s history and culture from their sofas.
One to Watch: Madhouse to Mudhouse NAT-RURAL AGRO TOURISM PVT. LTD, Uttarakhand
The judges were interested to see a new and innovative effort to co-create a new Rural-India, encouraging urban professionals to create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for villagers in hospitality, agriculture, and other allied local business areas. Madhouse to Mudhouse offers 90 days to 99 years long-term alternate living opportunities in rural India with a strong socio-economic vision to create India’s next growth story straight from its villages. The model will work through an aggregation of homestays and farm stays in rural India and facilitate a network of rural property owners and urban consumers through our platform. This is a very new initiative from Green People who have previously won Gold with the Goat Village.
Best Future Forward State
For this category, we looked for any state that led from the front during the Covid-19 crisis by supporting the travel industry’s revival and recovery through future-forward policies and trust-building interventions.
Kerala’s Responsible Tourism Mission has previously won Responsible Tourism Awards for its work. This Award is for the Department of Tourism’s efforts to support the tourism industry during the pandemic. In addition to providing regular and detailed advice to all parts of the industry, there has been substantial financial support. In 2020, this was provided through the Chief Minister’s Tourism Loan Assistance Scheme (CMTLAS), the Tourism Working Capital Support Scheme (TWCSS), Tourism Employment Support Scheme (TESS), Tourism Houseboats Support Scheme (THSS) and the Tourism Guides Support Scheme (TGSS). The State organised Kerala Travel Mart 2020 as a virtual trade show and ran social media campaigns #TripAtHome campaign, #TripOfMyLife, #StaySafe, #TravelLater, #WorkAtHome, and promoted virtual travel videos by rural travel providers, craftspeople, artists, musicians and home cooks.
The judges recognised the efforts made by the state government through the dedicated Covid 19 Odisha State Portal to provide comprehensive health advice and information about registration procedures for people returning to or visiting the State; for migrant labour returning to the State, and guidelines for tourism service providers. Odisha’s tourism website explicitly acknowledges that the guest’s safety is the travel and tourism sector’s responsibility with detailed advice for travellers on accommodation, natural environments, attractions, accommodation and public transport. Accommodation providers are featured with videos about their Covid-safe protocols.
Better Stronger Together
We looked for efforts during the Covid-19 crisis to help local communities directly or indirectly earn an income through tourism or support wildlife and habitat conservation.
Gold: Waste Warriors Dehradun, Uttarakhand
Since 2009 with roots in volunteer-driven cleanups in McLeod Ganj & Triund Waste Warriors has grown to a team of a hundred working to build sustainable, affordable, and replicable Solid Waste Management models in three different regions: urban Dehradun, hilly Dharamshala, and the rural forested landscape around Corbett Tiger Reserve. Although Waste Warriors is not a tourism organisation, they do operate in tourist areas. The judges wanted to recognise their efforts to help waste workers cope with the lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic. Waste Warriors launched a relief fund and were able to distribute over 2,000 dry food ration kits to support over 5,000 people in Dehradun and Dharamshala. In Dehradun, they distributed 1000+ soaps, 500+ gloves, 500+ masks, 300+ sanitiser bottles to those who needed it, and we provided 490 travel refreshments to people travelling on trains and buses.
Silver: Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society (MMES) Assam
The MMES is a community-based society for Conservation and Ecotourism. When Covid-19 arrived, they started a campaign to help the needy people in the fringe villages of Manas National Park. Using their own funds and contributions from the Ketto platform, the Bhutan India Friendship Association and WWF they were able to provide relief parcels to 2,140 households in 24 villages. The packages contained 20 kg rice, 2 kg dal, 1ltr oil, salt, soaps and sanitary napkins.
Silver: Kalap Trust Dehradun, Uttarakhand
The Kalap Trust was registered in 2014, the first organisation to do development work in the upper Tons Valley, a remote, inaccessible and neglected region in Uttarakhand. Working with 37 villages providing high-quality direct services in healthcare, livelihood development and education. The Kalap Trust is supported by Tons Trails Travel Services Private Limited, an ecotourism social enterprise that donates 10% of its annual profits. They provided vegetable seed and veterinary kits to assit in maintaining livelihoods through the pandemic and PPE for frontline workers.
One to Watch: Chhotaram Prajapat Homestay, Rajastan
When the pandemic came to Jodhpur, Chhotaram Prajapat, realising that lockdown would mean the daily wage earners would be without the means to buy food, supported local families with food. Realising that the need was greater than their family could help they used the crowdfunding site milaap.org and emailed people who had stayed at their homestay. They raised enough to help more than 300 families with groceries.