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Experts call for creative approach to sustainable tourism

In a panel hosted by the Mizuho India Japan Study Centre at IIMB on reinventing tourism in a post pandemic world, participants are introduced to Japanese concepts of harmonious living

29 January, 2022: “For years, Japan has been practising satoyama and satoumi, especially in the rural regions. These are principles of living harmoniously with land and oceans. The origin of satoyama and satoumi itself is based on natural resource management, resilience of natural resources and contributing to the local socio-economic development. If people visit a place for its authenticity, it becomes important for them to ensure they do not damage that very same authenticity,” said Prof. Kazem Vafadari, Division Head of Tourism and Hospitality (THP) at the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan.

He was speaking at the ‘Meijin-Samvad’ or ‘Expert Conversations’ series, hosted by the Mizuho India Japan Study Centre (MIJSC) at IIM Bangalore on Thursday (Jan 27th). 

“Once there is commodification of culture and it goes beyond the carrying capacity of the place, then there is no resilience of resources,” he added.

Prof. Vafadari was joined by Dr. Nimit Chowdhary, Professor of Tourism & Hospitality Management in Jamia Millia Islamia, in the discussion on ‘Reinventing Tourism in a Post Pandemic World: Lessons from India and Japan’.

“The key to a sustainable tourism business is to come up with creative ideas, even if they are simple old-school ones,” Dr Chowdhary said, citing the example of how India, during the pandemic, redesigned its popular railway stations to reflect the personality of the city of their location. “For instance, when visitors now arrive in the pink city of Jaipur, they experience Jaipur in the railway station itself,” he observed.

Describing sustainability as an approach, Dr Chowdhary spoke of the need for responsible tourism, where people leave the places they visit as they found them. “Better still,  is regenerative tourism, where people leave the places they visit in a better condition,” he said.

Building on the theme of responsible tourism, Prof. Vafadari said, “The locals should have a say. If development comes from outside, it will not be sustainable.” He followed up with an example of how the Japanese government engages with the locals in rural regions to handle accommodation, food and cultural experiences for international visitors. “Japan is often perceived as an expensive travel destination. The solution to remove such a perception was to follow the satoyama and satoumi approach through a focus on rural tourism and having the locals involved in the project,” he explained. “As tourism policy makers, we must come up with creative ways of helping the industry back on its feet while protecting local communities,” he added.

The discussion was moderated by Saideep Rathnam, COO of Mizuho India Japan Study Centre (MIJSC) at IIMB.

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/hU_ZVyOKmxM