Rethinking tourism

Dr. Bharti Gupta
On 27th September is celebrated the World Tourism Day to commemorate the adoption of the statutes of World Tourism Organisation (WTO) in 1970. This paved the way for the establishment of UNWTO in 1975. World Tourism Day was designated by UNWTO in September 1979. The first World Tourism Day was celebrated in the year 1980. Each year World Tourism Day celebration is marked with a theme. This year’s theme is “Rethinking Tourism”. The theme Rethinking Tourism” aims to engage the stakeholders of tourism in Re-imagining the sector’s growth both in terms of size and relevance. According to UNWTO, this aims to inspire for discussion around Rethinking Tourism for development including through education and job; tourism’s impact on the planet and opportunities to grow more sustainably. Each year is announced a country which officially hosts the world tourism day celebrations on behalf of UNWTO. This year on its 42nd edition, the celebration is being hosted by Indonesia. Recently, tourism has been recognised strongly as a transformational force to bring development. This recognition has yielded Tourism for SDGs. SDGs refer to the Sustainable Development Goals which were an outcome of historic agreement among world leaders at the United Nations in 2015 on a universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Under SDGs 2030, there are 17 SDGs and the corresponding 169 SDG targets that offer the world a new direction. As per the UNWTO’s platform on Tourism for SDGs, tourism holds potential to play a significant role in sustainable solutions for people, the planet, prosperity and peace. Tourism has the potential to contribute directly and indirectly to all the goals of the SDGs. Besides, the tourism statistics is quite impressive to the world economy. As per UNWTO, tourism as an economic powerhouse is the third highest world category in export earnings (2015). This represents 10% of the world GDP, 30 % of service export and 1 out of every 10 jobs. In order to align with the theme of Rethinking Tourism, this write up focuses on Rethinking about Tourism as discipline. Rethinking tourism discipline holds relevance because the academicians hold huge responsibility to create and pass knowledge that adheres to Sustainable Development at local, regional, national and global level and of course to bring awareness and remove misconceptions. It has been observed that the general perception towards the tourism discipline is as something involving not much of grey matter. This is due to the tendency of associating the discipline with the fun and frolic image of the actual tourism experience. This perception is however a myth. Primarily, Tourism studies are part of the Management Studies with prime focus on services which makes it different from general MBA. Tourism studies are as serious discipline as can be any other discipline of social-sciences and management studies. The unique characteristic of the discipline is that it is highly interdisciplinary. It connects at ease with disciplines like economics, environmental studies, education, ICT, Social Work, Cultural Studies, History, Anthropology, Sociology, political science, geography, etc which eventually has grown to become discipline of its own like in case of biochemistry, nanoscience and neuroscience. One may be wondering, how? For instance, in case of the connection with the discipline of Economics; international tourism contributes to the foreign exchange earnings for a country; it contributes to the local economy immensely by domestic tourism. Many countries like Maldives, Srilanka, Seychelles, etc. mainly depend on tourism based economy. Tourism thus becomes relevant service industry whose unique components and structures receive attention of the economists. Education: Tourism education needs to be framed as per the industry needs; and as per the needs of the potential areas like academia (students opting for tourism studies can look forward to taking NET exam for entering higher education institutions) and administrative services (the high inter-disciplinarity builds student’s capacity to even take Civil Services Exam of UPSC). The discipline thus needs serious designing with the most competitive pedagogies. Environmental Studies: Tourism impacts are conspicuous on natural environment. So it becomes part of environmental studies. Information and Communication Technology: Since tourism industry is highly based on the application of ICT, So role of ICT in tourism is one of the popularly studied areas. Social Work: Touristic activities influence not only the economy but also the social aspects of the host communities which get affected both positively and adversely. This fits tourism well with the studies related to sociology and social work. Psychology: In order to understand the tourists’ behaviour in terms of their consumption patterns, motivations etc, consumer psychology comes into play. Culture and Heritage: Tourism is phenomenon in which tourists gets attracted to a destination based on the various attractions. Amongst them, culture and heritage is significant and pivotal. Moreover, tourism professionals are cultural ambassador of their representative areas if they are well equipped with the culture and heritage of the place. This way tourism discipline is closely associated with cultural and heritage studies. Infact, tourism gives economic value to the cultural and heritage resources of a country. Anthropology: In order to understand indigenous tourism and tribal tourism understanding of the anthropology is useful. National Security Studies: Tourism is being used as a diplomatic tool in peace initiatives in conflicting zones, as a medium for national integration process too. So it falls in the sphere of national security studies. Geography: Tourism professionals need to be well equipped with the knowledge of the world geography and geographical features of the place to serve the needs of the tourists by offering the right tourism resources and products. So, for those who understand the tourism discipline as something of not so serious work needs to “Rethink” as it gets well with different disciplines and take them to the next level of comprehension. Rethinking is also needed within the academia by those who tend to marginalise the discipline due their own dearth of understanding the discipline. The individuals who are planning for taking up professional courses to pursue higher studies can make choice for tourism studies at Bachelor and Masters level i.e undergraduate and post graduate levels respectively with a sense of confidence. In Central University of Jammu, the Department of Tourism and Travel Management offers BVoc (Tourism Management), MBA (Tourism and Travel Management) and PhD (Tourism Management) and the said programmes have been designed in a manner that besides the summer internship period which is an imperative feature of all management courses, the students undergo On the Job Training (OJT) for complete one semester. This extensive exposure to the students of the real time opportunities and challenges of the industry while still being in study with the hand holding of their respective mentors prepare them well for their final placement and success in life. There is need for “Rethinking Tourism” at various dimensions by the stakeholders especially after the pandemic experience of COVID-19 in order to think of out of the box possibilities for reviving and rebuilding the confidence in the trade by redesigning the operational procedures just as being done by rest of the industries. In order to do this what more is needed is the clarity and vision towards the tourism phenomenon like that of the present prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, who realizing the significance of tourism made tourism as part of his five T formula for development. Under his leadership, various tourism projects related to manmade attractions are being executed on priority. Tourism courses are being taught under vocational programmes to realize the vision of skilled India. The priority and clarity towards the significance of the discipline can be realized by the coming up of Tourism University in India which shall be completely dedicated to the research in the tourism discipline. “Rethinking Tourism” in education is thus an apt slogan of the year. (The author is Assistant Professor, Department of Tourism and Travel Management, Central University of Jammu)