Breathing tourism: An upcoming travel motivator for metropolitan residents

Tourism which is all about leaving the place of origin for at least 24 hours and less than a year for which there can be different motivations. The motivating factors can be religion, adventure, culture, education, business, health, status, etc. Motivation is what triggers a need in a person to travel. Taking into consideration the scenario of deteriorating air quality fresh air can emerge out as a strong motivating factor to undertake travel for people living in such cities where the air is highly polluted. For that such people need to be made aware about the ill effects of breathing polluted air and the need to take a short break to rejuvenate themselves by visiting such places where they can inhale fresh air so as to mitigate the effects of inhaling contaminated air for the rest of the days. Although people living in such places are as such not conscious of this very fact and thereby are used to breathe in the contaminated environment in a normal manner. The government already is aware of such a scenario and is also looking for means to mitigate the levels of toxicity in the air by raising the standards of pollution control devices etc. At the same time due to the continuous inflow of people in such areas, it does not make any significant difference as the statistical indications have revealed. An air quality index (AQI) is a number used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become.

The national air quality index (AQI) was launched in New Delhi on 17 September 2014 under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The Central Pollution Control Board along with State Pollution Control Boards has been operating the National Air Monitoring Programme (NAMP) covering 240 cities of the country having more than 342 monitoring stations. The continuous monitoring systems that provide data on a near real-time basis are installed in New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Ahmedabad. There are six AQI categories namely Good (0-50), Moderate (51-100), Unhealthy for sensitive groups (101-150), Unhealthy (151-200), Very unhealthy (201-300) and Hazardous (Above 300). The air quality index (AQI) of Delhi have crossed the safe level mark by the standard of World Health Organization. The permissible limits for PM 2.5 concentrations are less than 60 units while the same in Dehli has crossed 200. In 2017, spirometry tests conducted by the Dehli government on citizens to check lung function found that more than 34 percent of the people checked had impaired lung function. A study conducted by the central pollution control board which was conducted by Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute found that more than two of five school going children in Dehli have reduced lung function. It also found that the sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from respiratory tract) samples of children from Delhi had four times more iron-laden macrophages, indicating bleeding in the lungs. The scientists also found that the changes in the sputum correlated with ambient air pollution. The kids born and brought up in such an environment have been inhaling the air in the air-conditioned rooms whether at their homes or in their schools, colleges, shopping malls, gymnasiums, recreation centers, cars, coaches, trains, etc. In case they are sometime in the open the air they inhale is just the exhaust of the thousands of outdoor units of the Air conditioners mounted on the outer walls of the apartments, the chimneys of the industries, the vehicular emissions, etc. The air quality index of such air is detrimental for their health but they are so used to such an environment that they are not even conscious of the toll that it is taking on their health. One of the leading pulmonologists from a metropolitan city of India was of the opinion that it requires medical research to establish the fact that by visiting any fresh air destination the respiratory disorders could be significantly mitigated.

The economy has grown leaving more disposable income with a good number of people living in the metropolitan cities of India especially Delhi. Kashmir being around an hour flying time from Delhi also makes it feasible for such people to take periodic breathing breaks during the weekends as a health measure. Benefits of low-cost ticketing in advance bookings can further make such travel feasible and affordable. The five day week leaves two days weekend for a number of people who could become the target segment for such packages.  People having a flexible work schedule can also be targeted by offering customized packages. Moreover, the commencement of night operations from Srinagar airport will further add to its scope. Since the main purpose of undertaking such tours will be breathing, thereby it will be ideal to accommodate them in such destinations, which are eco-friendly and away from the hustle and bustle. Such places may be chosen which are virgin tourism destinations thereby a home-stay accommodation may be preferred which on the one side will keep the package cost low and on the other will increase the USP of the package besides benefitting developing economies.

The above study was substantiated by the interaction with a few tourists who had come to Kashmir. They strongly agreed with the statement that fresh air tourism can be a significant travel motivator if people are made to understand its importance on their well being. It was further agreed by the Delhiites that Kashmir could be chosen as a potential destination for the same because of it’s flying time, which is hardly 75 minutes. Tourism entrepreneurs from Kashmir need to play a role in making people living in such places aware of these issues so that they may positively respond to their offers. Once the entrepreneurs will come up with low cost breathing tourism offers and they will be able to generate a big market for such offers because the nature of such type of tourism will be frequent. This is feasible when people living in metropolitan cities where the air quality index is bad are made conscious about the potential risks of breathing such air and the benefits of periodically taking tours to such places where there is ample fresh air.  Kashmir can be positioned to them as breathing heaven.