The Rural Tourism Council of WICCI (Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) launched ‘Green Buddies’, a nationwide Responsible Tourism campaign for school children by conducting virtual sessions for students of Hyderabad-based Glendale Academy on October 20, 2021.
Swapnali Deore, Principal of the school, stated, “The students of today’s generation need to understand the importance of our roots and our rich culture. I feel rural tourism should be promoted as it showcases the rural life, art, culture and heritage of our country.”
Sahana Ahmed, the National President of WICCI Rural Tourism Council, said, “One of my first thoughts when I started the council was to reach out to as many schools as possible. We need to educate our young ones how to be responsible tourists.”
Nisha Khot, a member of her council and owner of a B&B in Nagaon, Maharashtra, added, “Rural tourism is fast gaining popularity, with travellers seeking newer experiences, different cultures and remote terrains to explore. We seek to equip our future travellers with the sensibilities to veer this change towards an environmentally and culturally responsible direction in the years to come.”
The presentations have been designed to cover topics like reducing the usage of plastic and being respectful of the local population in a simple manner. The text was contributed by council members Lakshmi Sharath and Dr. Sheeba Hamid.
Ms. Sharath, who is also associated with RTSOI (Responsible Tourism Society of India) as a Brand Ambassador, said, “It’s important to discuss sustainability and educate young students on the values of responsible travel and am grateful to play my part in this. For me, being a responsible traveller means being conscious of waste disposal and plastic usage. It also means leaving the place cleaner than I found it.”
Dr. Sheeba Hamid, a Professor of Tourism at Aligarh Muslim University, explained, “The council intends to share the key points with school students as to how a trip can be well planned and enjoyed as a responsible tourist. It is an attempt to transform tourism and tourists in the responsible tourism context and to create awareness about managing and mitigating negative impacts of tourism. It is also to promote tourism as an activity that benefits the local community.”
The Glendale Group of Schools, which became the first institution to support the Green Buddies initiative, organised sessions for approximately 1200 students of grades 2 to 9. The Rural Tourism Council of WICCI was represented by guest speakers Soma Dutta, Lakshmi Sharath, Loretta Nadar, Rashmi Singh, Sonali Soni Pal, Malathi Gaur, Shabnam Jana and Sanjibita R. McDonald Tariang Sen.
At the end of the presentations, students took the #GreenBuddy pledge:
I am a friend of the Earth. I promise to be a responsible tourist. I promise to help others become more responsible too.
“I wanted the wording to be age-appropriate,” concluded Sahana Ahmed. “Something that children could easily remember and repeat.”
WICCI Rural Tourism Council is online on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @ruralwicci. For collaborations, please write to [email protected]