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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Philippines, India strengthen tourism ties with focus on sustainability

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I was invited to attend the 2nd Philippines-India Joint Working Group Meeting on Tourism Cooperation last week.  Despite  my full work schedule, I decided to  attend  this meeting because I wanted to network with the visiting Indian Tourism officers and find out how we could further increase the number of retirees from India who have already settled here in our country.

The meeting was chaired by the Department of Tourism Undersecretary Verna Buensuceso, assisted by Director Warner Andrada.  Aside from the Philippine Retirement Authority, there were also representatives from other government agencies—Intramuros Administration, Civil Aeronautics Board and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The attendees of the second Philippines-India Joint Working Group Meeting on Tourism Cooperation

The Indian delegation was led by officers from India’s Ministry of Tourism led by Director General Anita Baghel, Assistant Director General Uttank Joshi, and Assistant Director Kumar Gaurav. They were joined by officers of the Indian Embassy here in the Philippines, Charge d’Affaires Dr. Sadre Alam, Attache’ Puran Prakash Singh, and Second Secretary Shiv Lai Meena.

Discussions were mostly about joint activities and exchange of best practices between the tourism agencies of both countries as we, from the Philippines, showed what we do best in welcoming visitors to our country while our counterparts from India showed a series of ads highlighting what makes theirs, “Incredible India.”

Then, Joshi of the Indian delegation declared something that I found very interesting – India’s Travel For Life Program or what they commonly refer to as TFL.

Launched last year in New Delhi by India’s Ministry of Tourism as a global program on World Tourism Day, this campaign aims to transform the tourism sector to a more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive future for all, specifically to prompt tourists and tourism businesses to adopt sustainable practices.

The program encourages tourists traveling anywhere in the world to take simple actions that result in the conservation of the environment, and biodiversity, improvement in the local economy, and preservation of the socio-cultural integrity of the local communities. All in all, it helps in the protection of the environment against the effects of climate change.

This laudable movement makes tourists mindful of everything around them and encourages the proper utilization of resources by the stakeholders in the tourism value chain.

Visitors can gaze in awe at the vibrant colors of the statue of Maitreya Buddha in Nubra Valley

To further highlight its importance, India’s Ministry of Tourism issues certificates for tourism businesses, attractions, destinations, and other stakeholders for them to measure the sustainable practices of these establishments. Through this campaign, tourists become aware of sustainable tourism, making them adopt practices that are kinder to nature and the environment.

With this program being implemented, India is now positioned as a preferred global destination for responsible and sustainable tourism.

Of course, this laudable project has rung loud and clear in the four corners of the globe and has forged worldwide commitment, unity, and collaboration, echoing the collective aspirations of nations for a sustainable future. This campaign urges every citizen to travel responsibly, respect the environment, and understand and appreciate the diverse cultures that make our world so beautiful and most enjoyable.

The Akshardham Temple serves as a revered Hindu place of worship in New Delhi

I’m happy to note that, since many years ago, I have done something in line with this concept.  I have always reminded my students that, every time they travel, they must remember this mantra, especially when they are outdoors communing with nature – “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time.”

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