Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Responsible Tourism And The Sustainable Development Goals

-- Ritesh Datta, Co-Founder of Alpaviram

With the Millennium Development Goals that guided the world in addressing various developmental issues for more than a decade coming to an end in 2015, the world has now adopted what we know as the SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs). These are a set of inter-governmental goals that aspire to create a more sustainable and equitable world by the year 2030. These include 17 Global Goals and associated 169 targets for the world, include the following:

Based on this universal, integrated and transformative vision, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has committed to offer technical assistance and capacity-building to the achievement of these global goals, and have placed an emphasis on the Goals 8 (Good Jobs and Economic Growth), Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption) and Goal 14 (Life Below Water), where the tourism sector can make a direct impact.

#Alpaviram, an ambassador for responsible tourism in India, is committed to promoting travel and tourism practices that will directly and indirectly contribute towards attaining these Global Goals. We believe that the travel and tourism industry - one of world’s largest industries with a global economic contribution of more than US$ 7.6 trillion - can play a big role in attaining these targets. Not only Goal 8, 12 and 14, but the other 13 Goals as well.
#Alpaviram will publish our take on how responsible tourism can play a role in achieving each of the Global Goals over the next few weeks, and look forward to your thoughts, ideas and engagement on how to involve travellers, service providers and thought leaders and governments in making the effort to contribute. Stay tuned, stay engaged - and let's change the world by 2030!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

10 Reasons Why You Should Be Heading To Bhutan This Year

-- Priya Tripathy

The land of the Thunder Dragon is definitely worth a visit this year. In March, the country made global heads turn towards itself when it declared that it is no longer 'Carbon Neutral' but 'Carbon Negative'. Bhutan is the world’s only carbon sink, that is; it absorbs more CO2 than it gives out. It sells hydro-electrical power, making it the only country whose largest export is renewable energy.

The country that measures itself in Gross Happiness Quotient has much for us to learn from.

It is located along the Eastern border of India and makes for a very effective visit from within the country.

The currency of Bhutan is much lower than the developed nations and also of India's. This makes the travel experience is a truly gratifying one!

Almost all the country's attraction are conveniently located around its Capital, Thimpu.

Bhutan is home to the endangered Red Panda.

There is always a reason to be happy in Bhutan. The people have many smiles to share, and to inspire.

You might come across some really bizarre events, like the Phallus Blessing Festival!

Bhutan is a very clean country. The people believe in cleanliness as part of their daily spiritual regimes.

The country wins over many other Buddhist nations when it comes to learnings from the masters. Spirituality is a way of life here.

There is so much colour in Bhutan!

All citizens celebrate their birthdays on New Year's Day!

If you have been to Bhutan then share your experiences of the country with us and get featured on our blog!

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Mountains Are Calling, For Your Attention And Care!

-- Priya Tripathy

As a responsible trekker, my visit to the mountains are divided in two phases. Phase 1: Clean up the path and Phase 2: The trek. Traffic or not, every mountain side reeks of the impact of humans, it is not a pretty sight. At the same time, people who travel to trek with me expect a pristine surrounding. Most of them are not Indians and find it difficult to understand why people would litter the mountains. I have never been able to find an answer to that question but I would love to hear your thoughts.

The trek to Triund from Upper Dharamshala is a well-known one and is best suited for first-timers. The easy pace of the slope combined with enchanting views as one goes higher and strategically located shops offering refreshments are exactly the kind of support system that newbies need. The lesser-known hiking trails along the main path are, to me, the real finds.

The lesser-taken paths take you deep through the jungles, away from the active main path to Triund and is best-suited for those not in a rush to get to the top. These are also the trails that are least polluted and still have much peace and calm to offer. One such favourite hiking trail turns from Moon and Sun Cafe and takes you through the densest part of the jungle and out at the Bhagsu waterfall at Shiva Cafe.

The few people you meet along this hiking trail include avid hikers, resident travellers as well as locals. This 2-km hike is truly the essence of hiking/trekking. You walk along the path, pause, meditate or simply wonder. The forest is dense but there is no fear of any wild animals. There are several deep gorges so you better watch your step though.

In the rains and in winters, the moss can be slippery and the path tricky. Summers and autumn months are the best for this hike. It is also in these very months that you get to see the wild flowers in bloom in the meadows. These flowers scattered colourfully on the meadows are nature's genius stroke of brush on this canvas.

The forest and meadows are sacred to the local people and though you may sit, lie, meditate or photograph here, it is best not to pluck flowers or fruits or damage the natural scene in any way. Even in the deepest parts of the hike, you will find dustbins (courtesy Clean Himalayas) which should be put to good use as a responsible hiker.

I usually put up at The Flourishing Flora, a responsible homestay run by an educated family just ahead of TIPA. They serve the best home-cooked food! There sitting arrangement overlooking the valley is the best place to plan my tours and definitely to ponder over life and all its meanings. Give them a go, if you are there sometime. Alternatively, connect with me here and we can plan our hike together.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

How Do You Become A Responsible Traveller? Simple!!

Ritesh Datta, Co-Founder of Alpaviram

I opened my mailbox to be greeted by a new email from Amazon. The heading read: "Vacation on your mind?" Unable to resist the temptation to check if I received some award to travel across the world for free, opened it. The email, clearly a promotional one, was about the “must dos” for one’s summer vacations (and here I thought summer vacations made sense only in school), and had some attractive pictures of travel accessories, gadgets, fashionable items, essentials among others, along with a not-so-subtle hyperlink to the website, aptly named: “Shop Now”. Disgusted at not winning the free trip to across the world and beyond, I quickly clicked the “Delete” button, and prepared to lean back and start reflecting on my travel experiences, when suddenly the thought crossed my mind – what are the MUST-Dos FOR A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELLER?

For people who have not yet been exposed to the concept of “responsible tourism”, or may have heard about it but are not sure what it entails, #alpaviram sees it as an attitude of tourists and tourism services providers – towards being conscious about how they are affecting the local economies, natural habitats, cultures and heritages during their travel and through their service offerings (respectively) and taking responsibility for the same. So what would these mean for a tourist who aspires to be a responsible traveller? Some pointers:

1. Read, ask and get to know the local culture, customs and get to know the basic things you need to care about: Are you travelling to a more conservative society where you’re expected to wear covered clothing? Or if you’re a non-vegetarian travelling to a primarily vegetarian land, how do you ask around for your daily dose of meat without offending the locals?

1. Even though you may have money to splurge on staying in international hotel chains, selecting a homestay would not only help you save a little but may also give you an option to know more about the place and its people.
2. Conserve water. The world across is facing an acute shortage of potable water, and letting that tap run while you shave or make that international call adds to the woe of local community.
3. Minimize energy consumption. That lightbulb you prefer keeping on at night, or the air conditioner, uses a lot of energy. Choosing lodging options that have been designed using smart architecture that use sunlight more effectively, or use solar power to generate the required energy would help you minimize your carbon footprints for sure.
4. Use public transport where possible. Hire a bicycle or walk when convenient – great way to meet people, and also minimize your contribution to the pollution levels.
5. Hire a local guide. Not only do you learn more about the place and its culture and people but you are helping someone earn their livelihood. And who knows, many local guides will be able to show you their favourite places and eateries that are totally off the map!
6. Go shopping and buy local, but be careful about buying leather or ivory products. You do not want to contribute to wildlife poaching or other manufacturing industries that may not be following the fair-trade standards.
7. While it may not be possible to protest everytime you see a right violation (like a child labourer at a restaurant), do raise your voice – either at that point, or at least later via Twitter, Blogs or any other way you feel comfortable.

Not sharing your experiences with the world is depriving someone the chance to make an informed decision. Look back at how you struggled through your travel research. Alpaviram offers a great platform to share your responsible tourism stories, along with a fantastic, free-of-cost, professional editing services and social media marketing. If your story highlights responsible tourism, it needs to be shared.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Kushinagar: The final resting place of The Buddha

The path of The Buddha was never an easy one. Perhaps that is what makes him even more relevant to our times. His wisdom was the key to the balance we seek. He lived a very active life to the very end. This can be seen clearly in the number of monuments scattered in Kushinagar, Uttarakhand Pradesh - Buddha's resting place.

It is believed that Buddha died of something he had eaten on his journey towards his birthplace, Lumbini. Kushinagar is almost like time stands still as all the participants of those moments still remains today. Like the river Buddha crossed after resuming his journey after the meal, the place he stopped to rest when he felt unwell, the place his soul left the body as well as the spot where he was cremated.

My visit to Kushinagar was a deeply spiritual one. While I spent most of my time at the local Yama Cafe, the message of working out the simplest path to peace, everyday was not lost on me.

A number of stupas from a number of countries have found space here as homage to the wise Buddha. Thousands of people visit Kushinagar every year and Buddha calmly continues to smile at us all.

I travel to Kushinagar quite often and I would be happy to take you to all the places I have mentioned here. Please connect with to co-ordinate the trip with me.

--Priya Tripathy

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Dear Ma,

How are you? I have not seen you in so many years that I don't even remember your face. Do you remember me?

I was just a child when my master brought me here. I was so scared. I kept crying for you but you didn't come.

Why didn't you come Ma?

I live with many others like me. Most of them do not know their mothers. We only have each other but in these years, many of them have gone and never come back. It is difficult to make friends here. Everyone is sad or in pain. We could have been friends when we were younger but the whips are quick to break friendships.

I try to everything the Master says. They don't like it if you don't. I have seen many others like me being whipped till they don't feel anything anymore. If you still disobey the master, they take you to the dark room. Nothing ever comes out of the dark room, Ma, only screams.

But I get to travel, I don't see much but I feel that I may be closer to you. Everyone else thinks I am a fool because they say that every time we move, we move away from our kind.

I have heard that many others of our kind have had it worse. I don't know about them. Maybe I have been lucky.

I hope I get to see you someday Ma. Happy Mother's Day.

Thank you for taking the time to read our thoughts on animal abuse in the name of entertainment in India. Nothing is more painful that being separating a mother from her child. Be responsible, prevent animal abuse.

--- The author is Priya Tripathy. She can be reached at