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21 Sep, 2018

The three Prize-winning essays of The Olive Tree Awards Round II essay competition

First Place Co-winner Twinkle Malukani: Tourism to accelerate UN SDGs: From personal level to industry level and beyond boundaries of regions and economy

Leisure has not been the sole purpose of moving from one place to another. From the time Plato propagated the concept of Cave Allegory in which his protagonist philosopher once breaks through the chains of darkness of the cave to adjust his eyes in the light of reality and develop perceptions anew to the times of Greek philosophers who travelled to explore, learn and import ideas and indulge in fruitful discussions at the religious festivals in the city of Athens which witnessed people from all parts of the world to the present day world and surely the future times, the planet has recorded a lot of movement. Plato’s philosopher on coming out of the cave could see the reality of life which the present day traveler sees while exploring. The Greek philosophers discussed the ideas of the country they represented and there happened an exchange of useful ideas and hence betterment of all the countries being represented. These festivals now happen as discussions among the political elites which offer no platform for the masses.

This is where the importance of tourism comes into the scenario. The exchange of ideas when people travel not only adds to their personal benefit and growth, it also introduces tourist to unseen, unexplored and misunderstood, whether people or places.

Twinkle Malukani, 22, is a student at the Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. She says, “An aspiring lawyer with an insatiable desire to see the world, I believe wisdom stems from books and people while empathy develops by befriending strangers. I have an unending urge to travel and explore, be wiser and more empathetic. I seek to bring a social change through my profession to uplift the backward and lower classes and as much as I can, make this world a better place for the oppressed and through acts of kindness, introduce pragmatism to love, faith, tolerance and peace. I quote myself: “Work. Earn. Travel. Spread Happiness. Repeat. Life makes sense now.”

To explain, an Indian who has never visited Pakistan constructs his notion about that country based on hyped rivalry in media or hyped conservativeness of Islamic approach followed there. Every nationality has zero tolerance towards at least one other nationality which becomes the core reason of wars and hatred all over the world. But those who have stepped out of their cage whether within their country which also has no less diversity, differences and problems or beyond the domestic borders and have actually erased the borders for themselves, they make themselves a global citizen who is tolerant to people from any nationality, ethnicity, religion, race, caste or creed, etc. Such kind of tourism that explores, helps in Peace which is no less essential in contemporary world fighting internally for resources under the garb of religion.

As tourism promotes group tours, our present day nomads undergo a change in their mentality. Just like Gautam Buddha once on his walk around his own city underwent a transformation that has given the gift of a beautiful religion Buddhism, the tourist develop compassion for the “other” (their communal identity being the “self”) which makes them “just” as an individual in treating those “others” (UN SDG 16: Peace and Justice). People from diverse cultural backgrounds come together because of tourism industry and hence it can foster multicultural and interfaith tolerance and understanding thereby laying the foundation for more peaceful societies.

Travel, which is fostered by Tourism industry, is the journey to truth, wisdom and peace infinite. This tolerance and compassion for the “other” developed in travelers eliminates the compartments created by financial inequality or based on skin color or religion, race, ethnicity, etc. Tourism successfully reduces inequality (SDG 10), not to forget its contribution to elimination of poverty (SDG 1) and in reducing economic inequality.

The more one sees the unusual, the more he feels it to be usual. Tourism is the most effective means for economic integration and diversification. The sight of women working might make some happy, some agitated and some to eventually accept and find it usual. Not to mention the contribution of women working at par in male dominated sectors also, however this situation is not similar everywhere. There are variations in how women are treated domestically and professionally in Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal to represent the polar zones of India and such variation only increases beyond national boundaries. Tourism, apart from enlightening the role of women to the travelers also creates jobs for women. It also changes the ideology of tourists and contributes to Gender Equality (SDG 5). Tourism empowers women through direct jobs and income generation in tourism and hospitality becoming a tool for them to fully engage and lead in every aspect of society.

The jobs created have an ambit to cover educated and uneducated, being the only reputed industry offering jobs for semi-skilled with a pay enough for their growth in all aspects. A long list of countries depend on tourism considerably for their GDP and many regional places like Kutch Rann and Udaipur are domestic examples of tourism contributing to jobs and economy. This leads to tourism offering decent work and catalyzing the economic growth. (SDG 8). Decent jobs is a major positive socio-economic impact of tourism as it provides one in ten jobs and is top of the 4 major service export earners in the world. Low skills requirement and local recruitment helps to empower less favored groups, especially women. This job creation pulls out many at local and community level from vicious circle of Poverty (SDG 1) and hence takes baby steps to reach “Zero Hunger” (SDG 2). It can achieve food security and nutrition and sustainable agriculture encouraging sale of local products to tourists and supplies to hotel and agro-tourism.

To attract more tourism, policies focus on developing the infrastructure of the country through better transportation, urbanization and innovation. Whether it is a ferry transport from Hong Kong to Macau or trams/metros/bullet trains to tallest building Burj Khalifa in Dubai or Marina Bay Singapore, Tourism has paced up the infrastructure development and innovation and Industry (SDG 9). Apart from developing urban infrastructure, Tourism can promote regeneration and preservation of cultural and natural heritage and invest in green infrastructure which will develop smarter and greener cities for both tourists and residents.

Apart from maintaining and upgrading infrastructure, the host place attempts to live up to expectations of Clean Water and sanitation (SDG 6) and to sustain the excessive crowding, there will be solutions for Affordable and Clean energy (SDG 7). There should be efficient use of water, pollution control and technology efficiency and the sector can invest in clean energy sources to reduce green-house gases, mitigate climate change (SDG 13) and contribute energy access for all. Tourism should adopt sustainable consumption and production modes, and some projects of keeping tourist places clean along with tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for energy, waste disposal, water conservation, biodiversity, etc. Tourism can promote Blue economy by contributing to sustainable use of marine resources (SDG 14 Life below Water) as Coastal and Marine Tourism rely on healthy marine ecosystems. It can also play a major role in conserving and preserving biodiversity which is a reason why tourist visit a destination (SDG 15 Life on Land).

A Holiday is an unmatchable stress reliever which contributes to physical and mental health. To match up the tourist demands, roads are made for access to unexplored places which have a very low population. These roads make it possible for those people to connect with the outside areas to be able to access health care. Tourism contributes to health and well-bring of tourist as well as the host crowd (SDG 3). Also, in some areas where visitor’s fees/Extra charges are collected from tourists, the funds can be used to promote good health of the public. These roads also bridge that gap between kids willing to study to make it to the education in cities and sometimes the very idea of educating their children imported by tourist’s personal interaction with the local crowd. Tourism provides jobs to youth and women and others with special needs who can benefit through educational means. (SDG 4).

Last but not the least, one of the most linkable SDG 17 can be achieved through Tourism that strives to strengthen public/private partnerships and arranges multiple stakeholders (local/regional/national/international) to work together for achieving SDGs and hence, public policy and innovative financing are at the core for achieving 2030 Agenda as prioritized by UNWTO and UNDP in the Conference on Travel and SDG.

All I can finally say is “Travel, Explore and make this world a beautiful place to live.”

First Place Co-winner Vinita Srinivasan: Our role in this world: How Travel and the SDGs both illustrate an individual’s power to create a better world

The biggest appeal of travel for me has been its ability to show us that we are a tiny speck in this grand world, yet a powerful entity in itself. A drop in the ocean and the ocean in a drop, right? This virtue also echoes throughout the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN), revealing an underlying pattern strongly reliant on an individual’s ability to initiate change in his/her immediate surroundings, and in this way, create an impact on the global scale. In this way, both travel and the SDGs, show us the remarkable power we house within ourselves to pave the way for a better world- the former does so by expanding our horizons, our knowledge and our perspectives about the world we live in, and the latter by providing us a pathway to translate this wisdom into actionable goals!

A growing awareness towards responsible and sustainable travel has optimally positioned travel, as well as the tourism industry, as an effective change agent in the quest for realising the SDGs. People’s perception of travel is steadily changing from a pleasure-centric to a purpose-centric one. As more and more people venture out to explore the world, they realize that travelling is not just about ‘checking out places’, but engaging in a unique, cross-cultural interaction, that benefits both the traveller and the destination he/she is travelling to.

Vinita Srinivasan, 22, is an engineering graduate from Delhi Technological University, India and a Renewable Energy and Sustainability Enthusiast. She says, “I’m also an avid travel writer and a poet. Currently, I’m working as a Freelance Content Writer and planning to become a UN Online Volunteer.”


Today’s enlightened travellers seek to connect with the soul of a place, and leave their unique impression on it. This has led to the advent of travel volunteering, through which spirited travellers seek to give back to the place they are visiting, by taking part in activities that help the people of that place- such as helping farmers on a farm and helping them adopt efficient farming practices, working with locals to help them create a self-help group and empowering them to start a small enterprise, teaching English to non-native speakers, thus preparing them for a myriad of opportunities, or preserving the place’s ecological balance.

Through this involvement, volunteers from a variety of backgrounds bring their diverse experiences and skills together on a plate, to help that particular place progress towards the SDGs, be it SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure) SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) or even SDG 13 (Climate Action). In an indirect way too, such travellers have the ability to bring about revolutionary changes in the particular community through their unique experiences and wisdom. A mutual transfer of knowledge and wisdom can usher in huge strides in achieving Gender Equality (SDG 5), Reduction of Inequalities (SDG 10), perhaps even in Peace and Justice (SDG 16); as people of that place become increasingly aware of the various complex socioeconomic systems around the world.

In a world where a growing number of people endeavour to do something meaningful with their lives, these volunteering opportunities provide individuals with a channel to realise their potential, and contribute to the advancement of a place, and the entire society in general. And travel and tourism are efficient catalysts in this process.

There’s another way travel and tourism can have a mutual benefit – for the travellers (and their country), and the country they are visiting. Travel entails a transfer of knowledge and cultures – wherein both the traveller and the destination become malleable to influences from one another. In this aspect, travel has two direct consequences – one can visit a place, understand its developmental challenges, and be inspired to work on overcoming them; or, one can visit a place that houses effective developmental strategies, and learn from them and implement them in his/her home country. This would be mutually beneficial because no country would be advanced in every sector- there’s always something we can learn from someone. And in this way, a shared knowledge infrastructure is gradually built, which acts as a foundation for progress at a global level. Travel and tourism play a crucial role in facilitating this foundation-building process.

To elucidate the above point, I would like to present my very own example- a trip that turned out to be an enlightening experience by motivating me to take action on the causes of the environment. On a trip to Shimla and the surrounding areas in the mighty Himalayas in the year 2010, we got a chance to interact with villagers from surrounding villages. It was through this interaction that we learnt that many of them were shrouded in darkness, with no reliable access to electricity. This prevented students from being able to study after sunset and was also the major reason women had to devote their time and energy to cumbersome chores, instead of productive activities.

This ignited a spark in my mind- when I came back, I talked with the teachers in my High School and initiated the formation of Eco-Club in my school. As its President, I spearheaded several activities and campaigns, such as cleanliness drive and resource conservation campaigns, that brought about a positive impact in my immediate surroundings. But the spark led to something even bigger- it cultivated in me a strong interest in the field of Renewable Energy. Since then, I have been working on Renewable Energy projects, with the ultimate aim of enabling access to clean, inexpensive and reliable energy for all. This sentiment strongly resonates with the UN SDG 7.

I am just one of the 7.6 billion individuals on this planet. If my travel sojourns have propelled me to work on the UN SDGs, I’m sure there would be several others like me who would have been influenced by their travels in a similar fashion. Perhaps someone reading this article could become inspired to travel and make a difference in this world. And think about the mammoth effect this could have on our planet! Each positive action by an individual would create a ripple effect, bolstering the strides made by each other, and making way for further growth. In this context, travel acts as both a stimulant as well as a platform for interaction – one can be inspired by travel, and can also meet fellow like-minded people during travels, thus opening up a further possibility for constructive collaboration that would be beneficial for our planet. The shared expertise of such strong, spirited, and knowledgeable individuals is crucial for accelerated development in all spheres- economic, social, institutional, as well as environmental!

So the next time you are looking to learn, get inspired, or contribute to the society, why not travel? There can be no better way to truly comprehend the world we live in, and discover the unique role we play in it, than by travelling! Perhaps, as you tread paths, you will also leave footprints for the world to follow.

Third Place Winner Natasha Goel: Education and Tourism – A Key to Advancing Towards the SDGs by 2030

In early 2015, during my travel to a vineyard in New Zealand it struck me how tourism can sustain profitable livelihoods in rural parts of a country. In the summer of 2016, while teaching in extreme remote parts of rural India, I realised how learning about tourism can help students gain important employable skills. Currently, I’m writing from Kigali, Rwanda where every day I see examples of sustainable tourism, where the country is earning from tourism and yet ensuring that the environment is protected.

Welcome to the 21st century, where the worlds are connected, technology has made communication instant and infrastructure has made travelling across the globe much easier. But there is the darker side of globalization, where inequalities are increasing, number of people without basic necessities has become stagnant and there is tremendous pressure on the environment. In the light of the above, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 to promote inclusive, sustainable and environment-friendly economic growth.

Natasha Goel, born and brought up in Delhi, India, is a student at School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, pursuing her Master of Public Administration in Development Practice. As a part of her summer placement she is working in Kigali, Rwanda in the education sector. After completing a Bachelors in Economics in 2013 from University of Delhi, she worked at Google India for two years as a digital advertising consultant. Her additional work with the CSR team motivated her to enter the social sector full time. She taught middle school students from an underprivileged community for two years as a Teach For India Fellow. She is also passionate about traveling and exploring new cultures.


Through personal experiences, I truly believe that the intersection of tourism and education has the power to positively influence all the SDGs in one way or the other. Every city, town and village has something to offer for tourism. It can be historical stories, breathtaking landscapes, adventure activities, incredible architecture or the sheer diversity of people and cultures of a place. By opening learning centres or educational institutions solely focussed on developing skills required for the tourism industry, there will be major steps taken towards achieving SDG 4 – Quality Education and SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth. Opening these learning centres for students who are entering their teenage years would be the most beneficial. It would help them to develop skills which are relevant for the tourism industry. It would also include developing strong communication and literacy skills. At the same time students will learn business skills needed for tourism such as marketing, financing, advertising and entrepreneurship. Skill-based education is crucial for successful employment in the 21st century. By focusing on skills for tourism, students will get relevant education and at the same time have a greater opportunity to have a sustainable livelihood.

This solution would also help curtail increased youth unemployment due to students dropping out of school after primary school education. The quality of primary school education has been suffering due to overcrowded classrooms. As the content gets tougher, students drop out. By providing education institutions focussing on skills, these out of school children get a second chance to finish their education. With focussed training on tourism it would create an army of skilled youth for the tourism industry. This also has a direct impact on SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions as it will reduce out of school youth, who are the most susceptible to getting involved in violent activities.

The curriculum for tourism skill-based education can be adjusted to incorporate changing demands in the tourism industry. This would ensure that there is large space for innovation in the industry. By letting students, who are not biased by already present ideas, develop innovative solutions to the issues tourism industry faces, we can expect further growth in the industry. This would also fulfil some aspects of SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. This innovation would be used in all aspects of the tourism business including access to energy. More and more hotels and home stays especially in rural areas are using solar panels to generate electricity. By devising such innovative methods to run tourism businesses there will also be progress towards SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy.

The world’s most famous cities such as New York City, London, Beijing, Delhi and Jakarta, while expanding at rapid rates in terms of economic growth, are also suffering from increasing income inequalities and rise of slums. More and more people from rural areas come to cities to look for jobs which has put additional constraints on the city resources. Tourism skill-based educational centres can help reduce the stress on cities in multiple ways. They can help curb unemployment rates in the city leading to reduced inequalities and better living conditions for people in slums. The centres in the villages can help increase job opportunities which can reduce rural-urban migration. This way all three, SDG 1 – No Poverty, SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities and SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities can be positively impacted.

The presence of tourism activities in any area has several positive externalities. To host tourists, there is development of hygienic water and sanitation facilities, restaurants which serve local cuisines and medical facilities. This leads to access to these services even in remote areas. More and more local communities are using the concept of homestays where tourists stay with local families to experience the culture. This enables communities to reach closer to SDG 2 – Zero Hunger, SDG 3 – Good Health and Well Being and SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation. A lot of these community run initiatives are led by women cooperatives which also impacts SDG 5 – Gender Equality.

Tourism is often associated with degrading environment quality since tourists tend to waste resources while travelling. A key to caring for the environment is educating people around the concerns. By incorporating the environment aspect in the tourism skill-based education curriculum, awareness will be raised regarding environment issues in the tourism industry. The same students who graduate from these centres, will ensure that they use environment friendly tourism strategies and at the same time educate tourists on reducing wastage.

This would be extremely critical for conservation of biodiversity, both on land and in water as more and more biodiversity is at harm due to increased tourism activities. For example, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has been suffering from the unsustainable increase in tourism activities. Education is a key to informing tourism operators and tourists of the damaging consequences of unsustainable tourism. This would contribute to achieving SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 13 – Climate Action, SDG 14 – Life Below Water and SDG 15 – Life on Land.

The most critical aspect for the implementation of this idea would be to have strong partnerships (SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals) between the public, private and non-profit sector. Social Impact Bonds can be a good strategy to finance the idea and include non-profit organizations as implementation partners. Based on the success of the model, governments can introduce this as a part of the national education curriculum. Private sector would be important for both funding and providing technical expertise.

The intersection of tourism with education has the potential to positively impact all the Sustainable Development Goals, across all types of regions in the world. It is essential to tap in to this potential and create meaningful partnerships to advance towards the SDGs by 2030.